Obituary: Paolo Soleri (1919 - 2013)
Pioneering Italian-born green architect and environmentalist Paolo Soleri has died at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, aged 93
Paolo Soleri, renowned for his Arcosanti experimental city in the Arizona desert, has died at his home in Paradise Valley, aged 93.
Born in Turin in June 1919, Soleri studied at the Polytechnic University of Turin, graduating in 1946. In 1947 he moved to the United States and spent 18 months as an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West.
Soleri settled in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the majority of his work was completed in the south-west of the United States with the notable exception of the remarkable Artistica Ceramica Solimene ceramics factory in Vietri, Italy.
He conceived of Arcosanti, an experimental eco-town in Arizona (pictured below), in 1970 as an antithesis to suburban sprawl. The high-density, car-free project was part-built and funded by thousands of international student volunteers. Originally proposed for 5,000 people, the settlement reached a peak of 200 inhabitants in the 1970s and is now home to less than 60.
Source: Cody R
His philosophy, which he called Arcology (formed by combining the words ‘architecture’ and ‘ecology’) promoted low-energy building in an era of cheap energy when green design was yet to break into mainstream architecture.
Reporting on Soleri’s 1979 RIBA lecture, the AJ described him as a ‘prophet of the need for a reappraisal of resource use for over 20 years, long before it became fashionable; indeed many of the difficulties of his early years were due to the then failure to acknowledge the need for a review of energy use.’
Yasmin Shariff, principal of Dennis Sharp Architects and a friend of Soleri, said: ‘He was a pioneer and, like many pioneers, his ideas weren’t taken up because they were far ahead of their time.
‘He inspired thousands of people through his workshops. It is a great disappointment that those ideas have not been widely adopted. Maybe with his death those ideas should be rekindled.
‘Arcosanti was a very special thing in the middle of the desert. He was, perhaps, a little too adventurous. Maybe his sandals and sincerity were too much for people.’
Soleri was awarded an honorary RIBA fellowship in 1996, an AIA Gold Medal for craftsmanship in 1963 and in 2000 won a lifetime achievement award at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
He is survived by two daughters, Kristine and Daniela.