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Arcosanti: Paolo Soleri’s futuristic utopian city in the desert

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).