Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri
Born (1919-06-21)21 June 1919[1]
Turin, Italy[1]
Died 9 April 2013(2013-04-09) (aged 93)
Paradise Valley, Arizona
Nationality Italian
Alma mater Polytechnic University of Turin
Occupation Architect

1963 – American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Craftmanship

2000 – Leone d'oro at the Venice Biennale of Architecture
Buildings Cosanti
Projects Arcosanti

Paolo Soleri (21 June 1919 – 9 April 2013)[1] was an Italian architect. He established the educational Cosanti Foundation and Arcosanti. Soleri was a lecturer in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University and a National Design Award recipient in 2006. He died at home of natural causes on 9 April 2013 at the age of 93.

Soleri authored six books, including The Omega Seed, "Arcology - City In the Image of Man," and numerous essays and monographs.

Early life

Soleri was born in Turin, Italy. He was awarded his "laurea" (master's degree with highest honors) in architecture from the Politecnico di Torino in 1946. He visited the United States in December 1946 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.

In 1950 Soleri, with his wife Colly (née Corolyn Woods), returned to Italy where he was commissioned to build a large ceramics factory, Ceramica Artistica Solimene, in Vietri on the Amalfi coast.[2]

He adapted ceramics industry processes learned at this time to use in his award-winning designs and production of ceramic and bronze windbells and siltcast architectural structures. For more than 40 years, proceeds from sales of the wind-bells have provided funds for construction to test his theoretical work. Ceramic and bronze bells are still produced and sold at Arcosanti and Cosanti in Arizona.

In 1956 he settled in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Colly and their two daughters. He built Arcosanti with the help of generations of architectural students, as a community and place to test urban design theories. This "urban laboratory" became internationally renowned.[3]

Paolo and Colly Soleri made a lifelong commitment to research and experimentation in urban planning. They established the Cosanti Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation. Soleri's philosophy and works were strongly influenced by the Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Soleri died on 9 April 2013 and was buried at Arcosanti.[3]


The Cosanti Foundation's major project is Arcosanti, a community planned for 5,000 people, designed by Soleri; Arcosanti has been in construction since 1970. Located near Cordes Junction, about 70 miles (110 km) north of Phoenix and visible from Interstate I-17 in central Arizona, the project intends to provide a model demonstrating Soleri's concept of "Arcology", architecture coherent with ecology. Arcology is envisioned by Soleri as a hyperdense city, designed to maximize human interaction; it should maximize access to shared, cost-effective infrastructural services, conserve water and reduce 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 a prototype of a desert arcology. Soleri's other arcology designs envisioned sites such as the ocean (Nova Noah), et al. (see: Arcology: City in the Image of Man).

Since 1970, well over 6000 people have participated in Arcosanti's construction. Their international affiliation group is called the Arcosanti Alumni Network. As of 2010, construction is underway to complete Arcosanti's Greenhouse Apron.

Other achievements

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

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

In 1966, Paolo Soleri began working on the design for the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was built for the IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) on what is now the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School using large silt cast forms. The property is owned by the nineteen Native American Pueblos of New Mexico and is therefore not protected by local or state preservation laws.[4]

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 in 1976 at the Xerox Square Center in Rochester, New York. In 1989 "Paolo Soleri Habitats: Ecologic Minutiae," an exhibition of arcologies, space habitats and bridges, was presented at the New York Academy of Sciences. More recently, "Soleri's Cities, Architecture for the Planet Earth and Beyond" was featured at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in Scottsdale, AZ. A Soleri bell appears in the film What the *Bleep* Do We Know? His work has been exhibited worldwide.

Also in 1976, Paolo Soleri was a key participant at UN Habitat I, the first UN forum on human settlements.

The Paolo Soleri Archives, the collection of all of Soleri's art and letters, is located at Arcosanti. The Soleri Archives is managed by Sue Kirsch under the direction of Cosanti Board Trustee Director of Special Projects Tomiaki Tamura, who resides at Arcosanti.

Soleri was interviewed in the 2007 environmental documentary "The 11th Hour (film)".

December 10, 2010, saw the completion of Soleri Bridge and Plaza, which was commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art. The 130-foot (40 m) pedestrian bridge based on Paolo Soleri's design is located on the South Bank of the Arizona Canal and connects newly developed retail area Scottsdale Waterfront with Old Town Scottsdale. The bridge is incorporated into a 22,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) plaza including silt cast artwork and a large bell assembly called The Goldwater Bell, also designed by Paolo Soleri.

Over six years in the making, the recently completed (2013) feature-length documentary film The Vision Of Paolo Soleri: Prophet In The Desert features on camera interviews with Morley Safer, Paul Goldberger, Catherine Hardwicke, Will Bruder, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Steven Holl and Eric Lloyd Wright. It was produced by Lisa Scafuro / Mona Lisa Film Productions and Emmy Award winning Sam Shinn, Director of Cinematography.[5]


Soleri has received fellowships from the Graham Foundation and from the Guggenheim Foundation (1964, Architecture, Planning, & Design[6]). He has been awarded three honorary doctorates and several awards from design groups worldwide:


  1. 1 2 3 "Biographical profile: Paolo Soleri". Arcosanti.
  2. "Solimene Ceramics Factory Video". October 15, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  3. 1 2 Karissa, Rosenfield. "Remembering Paolo Soleri 1919–2013". Architecture Daily. ArchDaily. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  4. "Paolo Soleri to be demolished". June 11, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  5. "The Vision of Paolo Soleri: Prophet in the Desert". IMDb. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  6. "All Fellows (S)". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 19 December 2012.

S. Suatoni (a cura di) 'Paolo Soleri. Etica e Invenzione Urbana', catalogo della mostra, Roma 8 ottobre 2005- 8 gennaio 2006 (Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Maxxi, Casa dell'Architettura), Roma Palombi, Jaca book 2006

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