Soleri was born in Turin (Torino), Italy in 1919 and completed his Doctorate at Polytechnic University of Torino in 1946. Shortly afterwards, he moved to the United States and spent a couple years, from 1947-1949, apprenticed to Frank Lloyd Wright. Influences from Wright and Antoni Gaudí can be seen in Soleri’s later organic built environments. After his apprenticeship with Wright, Soleri moved to Arizona where he developed Arcosanti, a minicity that is designed to support 3-5,000 people on just 10 acres of land.
Arcosanti is the primary project of the Cosanti Foundation, a not-for-profit organization started by Soleri and his wife. This urban environment has been under construction since 1970 and is based in Cordes Junction in central Arizona. Soleri’s vision behind this compact way of living is inspired by nature and its general rule that a lack of density represents inefficiency. Called “arcology” (a combination of architecture and ecology), this method of building aims to avoid urban sprawl, emphasize vertical vs. horizontal growth and maximize community interaction with the natural environment without producing a negative impact or requiring a major draw on natural resources.
The goals of Arcosanti are only the beginning for Soleri. In 1969 he published “Arcology: The City in the Image of Man,” in which he described compact cities that would support anywhere from 15,000 to 6 million people. Cars were not allowed, which allowed Soleri to redesign the navigation and orientation aspects of these potential living environments. Whether or not these plans will be brought to fruition remains to be seen, but Soleri has certainly outlined an environmentally responsible plan that is worth living up to.