Paolo Soleri, 1919-2013

I've been surprised that I've seen so little mention in science-fiction circles of the April 9th death of visionary architect Paolo Soleri. Soleri originated the term "arcology".

The idea of an arcology is an imploded city, the opposite of sururban sprawl. His massive book, THE CITY IN THE IMAGE OF MAN (1969), featured drawings of massive (but relatively small-footprint) self-contained cities, cities that reached high into the sky and deep into the ground. Because they were designed to be self-contained and self-supporting, they could be located in marginal areas. (One design was for a city using air-space by spanning a section of the Grand Canyon.)

A 2011 article on ARCH DAILY gave a good overview of his life and career.  He spent more than forty years slowly building a small-scale version (5,000 intended population) arcology, Arcosanti, still not complete, in rural Arizona, assisted by students and acolytes.  With shoestring funding (mostly by sales of ceramic and metal bells made by Soleri) and built largely with hand labor, even the fraction completed so far is impressive. 

I believe Soleri's work was one of the big inspirations for Robert Silverberg's "Urban Monad" stories (collected as THE WORLD INSIDE), tales of life inside mile-high skyscraper-cities.  Soleri's work and ideas have influenced other writers' "future cities" as well.

Personally, I came across a copy of CITY IN THE IMAGE OF MAN in the Arizona State University library in the early 1970's.  (It's fair to call it a coffee-table book; it's literally about the size of a coffee-table top.) "Wow," I said as I paged through it.  "Wow."  Sensawunda extreme.

Soleri may not have been a science-fiction writer, but his vision and ideas have surely influenced the field.  So, again, I'm surprised that I haven't seen more SF people commenting on his death.

Paolo Soleri, 1919-2013

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