Visionary architect Paolo Soleri began building Arcosanti, his utopian city in the desert, in 1970 and continued to work on this “arcology” (“architecture + “ecology”) until his death at 93 in 2013. When I interviewed Soleri in 2000, he described the experimental city as a reaction to the scattering of people across the US landscape, what he called a “planetary hermitage”.
In 2000, I interviewed the Begin-Tollas family, who as planning manager (Nadia Begin) and construction manager (David Tollas) were hoping to help create a different type of “American dream” for their 3-year-old son Tristan (“the first child to grow up in an arcology”).
In 2014 I returned to this desert oasis, a year after Soleri died, where residents, like planning manager Rawaf al Rawaf, were trying to determine the future of this “urban laboratory”. The Begin-Tollas family still continue to help build this “prototype” arcology (Tristan is now 18).