Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri

Soleri, Paolo, 1919-, Italian-American architect. He studied architecture in Turin (Ph.D., 1946). Soleri's works have been influenced by both Frank Lloyd Wright, with whom he worked, and Antonio Gaudí. He developed an architecture that expresses a functional and organic way of life. Soleri has produced extraordinary designs for vast, high-density, self-sufficient, and multilevel communities built in the desert. These, which he terms arcologies, are proposed alternatives and responses to the increased problems of overpopulation and urban sprawl and decay. Soleri and his students and assistants have been building an arcology, Arcosanti, north of Phoenix, Ariz. since 1970. It was conceived as a prototype to show how cities might be updated, minimizing energy and transportation use while promoting human interaction. Soleri is the author of Arcology: The City in the Image of Man (1969).

See his Sketchbooks (1971); J. Strohmeier, ed., The Urban Ideal: Conversations with Paolo Soleri (2000); D. Wall, Visionary Cities: The Arcology of Paolo Soleri (1970); A. I. Lima, Paolo Soleri: Architecture, or Human Ecology (2000, tr. 2001).

Paolo Soleri (born June 21, 1919) is an Italian-American visionary architect with a life-long commitment to research and experimentation in design and town planning. He established Arcosanti and the educational Cosanti Foundation. Soleri is a distinguished lecturer in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University and a National Design Award recipient in 2006.

Early life

Soleri was born in Turin, Italy. He was awarded his "laurea" (M.Sc. degree) with highest honors in architecture from the Politecnico di Torino in 1946. He visited the United States in 1947 and spent a year and a half in fellowship with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona, and at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. During this time, he gained international recognition for a bridge design displayed at the Museum of Modern Art.

Soleri returned to Italy in 1950 where he was commissioned to build a large ceramics factory, "Ceramica Artistica Solimene." The processes he became familiar with in the ceramics industry led to his award-winning designs of ceramic and bronze windbells and siltcast architectural structures. For over 30 years, the proceeds from the windbells have provided funds for construction to test his theoretical work.

In 1956 he settled in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his late wife, Colly, and their two daughters. Dr. and Mrs. Soleri made a life-long commitment to research and experimentation in urban planning, establishing the Cosanti Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation. Soleri's philosophy and works have been strongly influenced by the Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.


The Foundation's major project is Arcosanti, a planned community for 5,000 people designed by Soleri, under construction since 1970. Located near Cordes Junction, about 70 miles north of Phoenix and visible from Interstate I-17 in central Arizona, the project is based on Soleri's concept of "Arcology," architecture coherent with ecology. An arcology is a hyperdense city designed to maximize human interaction; maximize access to shared, cost-effective infrastructural services like water and sewage; minimize the use of energy, raw materials and land; reduce waste and environmental pollution; and allow interaction with the surrounding natural environment. Arcosanti is the prototype of the desert arcology.

Since 1970, over 6000 people have participated in Arcosanti's construction. Their international affiliation group is called the Arcosanti Arcology Network As of 2005 Arcosanti stands an estimated 3% complete.

Other achievements

The International Architecture Symposium "Mensch und Raum" (man and space) at the Vienna University of Technology (Technische Universität Wien) in 1984 received international attention. Paolo Soleri participated, among others: Justus Dahinden, Dennis Sharp, Bruno Zevi, Jorge Glusberg, Otto Kapfinger, Frei Otto, Pierre Vago, Ernst Gisel, Ionel Schein.

Soleri is a distinguished lecturer in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University and a member of the Lindisfarne Association.

A landmark exhibition, "The Architectural Visions of Paolo Soleri," organized in 1970 by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, traveled extensively in the U.S. and Canada, breaking records for attendance. "Two Suns Arcology, A Concept for Future Cities" opened at the Xerox Square Center in Rochester, New York, in 1976. In 1989 "Paolo Soleri Habitats: Ecologic Minutiae," and exhibition of arcologies, space habitats and bridges, was presented at the New York Academy of Sciences. Most recently, "Soleri's Cities, Architecture for the Planet Earth and Beyond" was featured at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in Scottsdale, AZ. His work has been exhibited worldwide.


Soleri has received one fellowship from the Graham Foundation and two from the Guggenheim Foundation. He has been awarded three honorary doctorates and several awards from design groups worldwide:


He has written six books and numerous essays and monographs. When he is not traveling on the international lecture circuit, Soleri divides his time between Cosanti, the original site for his research located in Scottsdale, and Arcosanti.

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