Sunday, February 19, 2012

Adventures in Arcosanti

So I have to admit I have been a completely lame blogger lately. Something about post-Barn Sale depletion followed by Holiday merriment and much reorganizing of children's rooms. In any case, I did find a bit of time in there to sneak off on a little adventure to Arizona,  by myself!, the first week of January.

Now my own little personal escape home wouldn't necessarily suit the purpose of this blog, except for the fact that this particular adventure included a trip to Arcosanti, an artist commune/sustainable city designed by Paolo Soleri and built right into the mountains and gorge walls outside of Prescott. (for more detailed and accurate info check out ) The people who live here all contribute to the sustaining and building of the complex, as well as trying to help further the mission of Arcosanti. (The central idea Soleri focused on was arcology-a blend of sustainable architecture with a focus on preserving the natural beauty and environment of the building site.) They make the bells that are sold and participate in various construction projects to further expand the structure of the complex. They work in the cafeteria or the library of the foundry or the potting studio to make the art pieces that pay for everything that goes on there. You can sign up for workshops and go live there and contribute yourself, if you like. I am so there once my kids are all busy with their own lives.

Wanna see what it was like?
If your first thought was "huh?," then that makes two of us.

When you drive up, all you see is this dead looking moonscape. You keep wondering if you are in the right place. In fact, you can't really see anything until you are right in front of the complex, as in, you are about to fall in the gorge. But when you get there, it looks like this:

And what about that view? Most of the windows in the entire complex face that view in fact that last shot is taken from the Foundry, where they make the bells. Nothing like pouring hot metal with a view like that. And yes, it is a bit like a fusion of the Jetsons and the Flintstones, just 3D, and way cooler than anything Hanna Barbera could have ever drawn.

Here's a couple more of the grand view from the top ledge of the complex:

Arcosanti is it's own little microcosm. They have common areas, a library, art studios, a performing arts center, greenhouses, a cafeteria, a pool and all kinds of other amenities. There is a ceramics center, as well as a fully functioning foundry where the famous Soleri bells are made by hand. The process Soleri used to make the bells, casting them in sand molds right in the ground, led him to the central principles for the technique he refined into his building construction technique.

Here's the Ceramics Apse:
This is how they cast the ceramic bells. They pour the slip and clay right into holes in the sand. That is what makes the unique and beautiful shapes the bells are famous for.
This is what the bells look like once cast and fired. They will be combined with metal elements and then be made into a mobile-like work of art.

Here is the foundry, where they make the metal parts of the bells. It was so cool here, and I am still mad at myself for not taking a picture with the really hot guy with the dreadlocks and prolific tattoos that was working the forge that day. What was I thinking? Maybe that I am too old for that kind of nonsense. Oh wait, he's there in the bottom corner.....well, I'll just leave all that to your imagination.

See the bells hanging on the rack here? That's what they look like once they've all been strung. Below is the finished product. I think they are so gorgeous!

Here I am with the finished bells. I think the ones next to me were about $300. Out of my budget, but not too bad if you consider that the bells and the workshops are the only source of income for Arcosanti and that they are hand made, one of a kind sculptures. I will always be grateful to my mother's friend who gave me one as a wedding gift. It's not hung up right now, but I pull it out and look at it all the time. Maybe there's space in the studio....

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