A week ago I spent time in the most magical place in the desert, maybe the most magical place on Earth: Arcosanti.
Arcosanti is the vision of architect Paolo Soleri. Soleri studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and then took his concepts to another level. He wanted to create cities of the future that were densely populated but had a low impact on the environment - combatting urban sprawl and creating community. Hence he coined the term arcology (architechture + ecology) and his main prototype for an arcology is Arcosanti.
Arcosanti had been on my radar for a few years, but this New Year I vowed to myself that I would spend time there. When me and Zanny started making plans for the Tucson Gem Show that was the one addendum I added. I had to go to Arcosanti.
It's about a three hour drive from Tucson - an hour north of Phoenix and an hour south of Sedona. Right off of the highway and down a two mile unpaved road. I had made a reservation for an overnight stay - but when I tried to research online as to what to expect, I couldn't find much. Someone on Yelp said the bathrooms had spiderwebs and that was about it. I couldn't figure out what the food situation was either - I booked a room without any sort of kitchen amenities, but on the website it said that only breakfast and dinner were served at the cafe and so I got myself a loaf of bread and some cheese and prayed that would work. I didn't need to worry at all.
The room was adorable - a small bed, a sink and a desk. Towels, an extra blanket and a space heater were provided (I had copped all three from my brother in Tucson just in case). The shared bathroom was clean and there was no one staying next to me, so I had it to myself.
Of course, me being me, I locked myself out of my room as soon as I started unloading the car. Thankfully they had an extra key at the front desk (a quarter mile up the hill) and, after that, I left my door unlocked for the duration of the stay.
I could chronicle everything that happened during the trip. All the things I saw, the people I met, the buildings and sculptures that I climbed - but you really have to go explore it for yourself. What I will say is that it felt like home. It was a place where all my emotions felt unmuted. I felt genuine joy, delight and curiosity. I felt safe. I felt awe. The people were lovely and there was such a strong sense of community. Pete told me about the makeshift bar that pops up on Wednesdays where they hold open mics. Jess pointed me to the communal kitchen and laundry and was later my personal tour guide through Arcosanti. She took me to so many cool places and I kept falling in love with the space more and more. I met Heath in the communal kitchen and he said I could let the cat (Spring) in. Me and Spring also got to hang out and meow at each other. Adam pointed out trails to me - I hiked to the top of the mesa across the canyon from Arcosanti and heard the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King soundtrack pouring out of the foundry while they poured bronze and made those beautiful bells that the Cosanti foundation is known for. It was magic.
Arcosanti's magic, I believe, lies in its intentionality. Every aspect of the space was thought of and had a reason. The community created there was intentional - you can't just up and move into the space. It's a process and (from what I understood) you have to be voted in or someone has to make the conscious decision to allow you to move in and become a part of the community. Regarding the city, one of my favourite things was how there was a chair every place you could possibly want one (i.e. - every scenic overlook). I loved how the 'steps' were made for stargazing. I loved how you felt like you were equal to the space and contributed to your being and you contributed to it. It is a very symbiotic place.
I kept half-jokingly asking residents how I could move there. Friends told me that it sounded like it was built for me and I know I felt at home. My first day there I told Pete I was ready to move in. My second day, I vaguely asked Jess about the process of seeking a permanent residency there. On my last day, I asked Melissa at the front desk how people were selected to live in Arcosanti and she lead me to the Director of Community Engagement, Tim. I had the opportunity to sit down with Tim for a few minutes and he shared information about a new program which will select a small business to move to Arcosanti. What opportune timing; I will definitely be applying. Even if I'm not the selected small business, I see myself spending a lot of time there in the future and being inspired by every aspect of that place.
I fell in love with Arcosanti in all its glory very very deeply. Even when I was there, designs were constantly flowing through my brain and it was beneficial to me on so many levels. I can't wait to sit down and create a small one-of-a-kind collection inspired by my time there. Keep an eye out and make sure you're subscribed to my newsletters - they'll be the first to know about it.
Things that are good to know:
-Tours are every hour, on the hour from 10-4. You can't explore Arcosanti without a tour unless you are an overnight guest. I also definitely recommend taking a tour even if you are an overnight guest. I had one with Jess and then I jumped in on Helen's tour the next morning to watch the bells being poured.
-The cafe is currently serving lunch and dinner for $15-20. There are also 2 community kitchens where you can prepare/store your own food. Ask anyone there for help locating them.
- In addition to the community kitchens, there is a library, a rec room/gym and a community 'general store'. The library has tons of books, but it's a little haphazard and neglected. If I had the opportunity to live there, I would definitely organize and air out the library- libraries have always been sacred places to me and I find so much joy in cleaning them up. Ask any of the Arconauts to point you in the right direction for any of these spaces.
-If you are staying as an overnight guest in the guest-rooms - be aware that there is lots of walking and climbing of stairs. I clocked in over 18,000 steps the one full day I was there. Granted, I hiked up the mesa and down around the lake.
-Everyone is super kind. I'm very introverted and it's often difficult for me to strike up conversations with people I don't know - but I felt safe and secure here.
I hope you get a chance to visit and experience the magic of Arcosanti as well.
(I headed back to Arcosanti the day after I left, but this time with Zanny- pictured above. I feel so fortunate to have been able to share this experience with her)