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Key to the City

Why All the Artists Are Obsessed with Arizona’s Arcosanti Site

Key to the City 01/24/2018


It doesn’t take that much to convince Sarah Fox to leave Chicago in February—or to extend her annual pilgrimage to the Tucson Gem Show, where she stocks up on all the shiny stones she’ll use to make her delicate, beaded necklaces and bracelets until her next visit. A couple of years ago, she started driving up to the planned community, art collective, and interactive museum known as Arcosanti, which was founded by architect Paolo Soleri and his wife Colly in 1965 and lives on today. Sarah loved it so much that stopping in has become a regular Arizona tradition for her—here are her tips for going your first (but definitely not last) time.


I use a stay at Arcosanti as a way to decompress from making all of those tiny little artistic and financial decisions at the gem show. Arcosanti is just a jewel in the desert. It’s so pretty and so inspiring. You don’t have to stay overnight necessarily, but staying for a day or two is such a special experience. They rent various spaces through Airbnb. There’s one called The Sky Suite that was originally designed for the architect of the whole thing, Paolo Soleri. That’s probably the most photographed space, but it’s popular and not always available. There are all sorts of other dorms and rooms—there’s a larger building called The Light Scoop where all the rooms are designed in these kind of crescents to catch the sun coming in the windows. It’s hard to describe, but it’s really amazing inside.”


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“Arcosanti itself is only about an hour north of Phoenix, so it’s pretty accessible. There’s a cafe onsite that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so you can just grab a meal and hang out. Arcosanti is also pretty close to Sedona, which has jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes, and on the way to the Grand Canyon, which is about a four-hour drive—if you have the time, that’s a great road trip. I will say that the first time I went, I tried to cram it all into a few days, and that was a little crazy. It’s nice to be able to go back and take in the details of each place a bit more.”



“There are studios on site that are famous for the bells they make. It’s a smaller version of a technique Paolo Soleri figured out where they cast these giant pieces of concrete for the buildings into the landscape itself, with molds they carved out with bulldozers. I get really geeked-out on the bronze pours for the bells because I make jewelry, but because I can’t pour bronze in my studio, it’s so cool to see this in person. Check the tour schedule in advance to see which days they’re doing the pours if you really want to see one.”





“Paolo Soleri started out with this utopic vision of a community. It was during the seventies when there was more of an awareness of the ecological impact of buildings and cities. The vision of it as a city was a little out of reach, but there are people that live there and architecture design students who cycle through to try to help complete this vision. There are a lot of articles and information on their site that explains the goals and history in a lot more detail.”



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