Teorema 009: Drawing of an early concept of Arcosanti, April 1971, Paolo Soleri.

Teorema 009: Drawing of an early concept of Arcosanti, April 1971, Paolo Soleri sketchbook #7, page 333, Arcosanti Foundation, Mayer, Arizona, Paolo Soleri.

An urban planning theoretician and visionary architect, Paolo Soleri is best known for his work on the Arcosanti, the prototype futurist city being constructed in Arizona. Based on the concept of ‘Arcology,’ his theory ‘advocates cities designed to maximize the interaction and accessibility associated with an urban environment; minimize the use of energy, raw materials, and land, reducing waste and environmental pollution; and allow interaction with the surrounding natural environment.’30 Born in Italy in 1919, Soleri was educated at the Ecole d’Art Industriel in Grenoble, France. He also attended the Torino Liceo Artistico, Academia Albertina and graduated with a Ph.D. from the Torino Politechnico in 1946. He has been conferred with many honors and awards including the Golden Lion Award, La Biennale di Venezia, and most recently the Commendatore della Repubblica Italiana. He has also received numerous grants and fellowships for research and development by such foundations as the Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Soleri has published his provoking sketches in several books. Soleri writes in his 1971 publication, The Sketchbooks of Paolo Soleri, that his sketchbooks ‘are actually a visual archive of my daily work.’ 31 These books are approximately 400 pages each and rendered ‘with large ballpoint pens or laundry markers; occasionally pencils or wax crayons are used.’ Soleri writes about the design process evident in the use of his sketchbooks: ‘A natural question arises: Has the procedure of a “bookkeeping” of the mind influenced the thinking and living process? Probably yes. There is an underlying structure to every life, a structure that can be driven deep into the recesses of the self but also one that can be brought to the surface, or better, can be brought “visually” into the process of life by various devices.

The sketchbooks are one of these devices.…I do not know if I can explain why I work in series. That is to say, every time I develop an idea, I then proceed to conceive a series of variations on the theme.…Another explanation is that there is no such thing as the complete, final, or perfect response to any challenge, even when the challenge is specific and detailed. As soon as the first idea works itself onto paper, all its scarcely known relatives with different degrees of legitimacy are in close pursuit. So there they come, sketchy and naked, to be picked up again later for reassessment and characterization.’ Soleri has been constantly sketching his theoretical visions for cities.

His books of sketches feature interconnected structures within large building complexes. This sketch appears to be part of the structure for Arcosanti, and it is typical of the massive structures that are the foundations of the arcology for his city. The sketch has been rendered freehand with a nearly perfect semicircular dome as the dominant feature. The lines indicate a slow, thoughtful approach. Slightly wavering, they seem to achieve proportion and the relationships of forms to give a general impression of the structure and space. Although sketched carefully to show shadow and detail, many of the forms are misshapen to reveal less concern with the mechanics of the sketch, as some are reworked to find the optimum shape. Sketched in ink, a medium that discourages changes, there are very few ‘mistakes.’ One might conclude that this was not the first thought, but a sketch that evolved during the making.

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