Arcosanti: A different way of living but the Sky Suite is where it's at

Arcosanti, seen from the valley down below. This photograph was made on film with a large format Sinar F1 4x5 camera.

Arcosanti, seen from the valley down below. This photograph was made on film with a large format Sinar F1 4x5 camera.

Stars move in the sky above an apse at Arcosanti in Arizona.

Even in 1970 architect Paolo Soleri could see the future. He looked around at the sprawling cities and knew in the long run we were in trouble.

He could see that urban sprawl, wasteful consumption of fossil fuels and hyper consumerism were putting us on a dangerous path.

He started building Arcosanti in the desert 70 miles north of Phoenix to try to find another way of living. His goal was to put into action his concepts of Arcology, a mix of architecture and ecology. 

George Lucas is said to have based Luke Skyalker’s home planet of Tatooine on a trip to Arcosanti. You can see it in the concrete walls, circular doorways, apses and vaults. It feels like something out of a sci-fi movie. But perhaps it is the other way around. 

This places wasn’t intended to be a fantasy. It was built with the hope of becoming the common reality. The new, better reality. 

Paolo Soleri

Soleri’s vision was of towering, vertical cities where people live near where they work without the need for cars. There would be large public spaces where thousands of people would live, work and grow together.

I had the chance to meet Paolo Soleri in 2010 while working on a story for The Arizona Republic. At the time he was in his 90s but he was still sharp and a little sassy.

I remember the reporter I was with asked him if he thought of himself as a philosopher or a architect.

Soleri responded, “ Oh, such big names. I’m an earthling.” 

He died in 2013. But his vision lives on.

Students from around the world get their hands dirty, literally. They come to work and learn at Arcosanti, physically adding to Arcosanti’s building and construction while learning about his philosophy. Many of the participants are aspiring architects who take the ideas of sustainability and apply them to their own work.

The Sky Suite

The view from the Sky Suite

The view from the Sky Suite

You don’t have to participate in a workshop to get the Arcosanti experience. There are several options for staying overnight and living it like a resident. They offer guest rooms and a dorm, but the best option is the Sky Suite.

The Sky Suite is a funky two bedroom apartment with a kitchen and a spectacular view. It’s a great place to unplug and get away from the world. 

Trails nearby take you to a mountain overlook where you can get a great overview.

As we wandered the grounds we found all sorts of unexpected and discoverable art like metal spheres, giant pots and old broken down trucks that blended in with the high desert. 

At night we were dazzled by a stunning view of the stars. Arcosanti is far away enough from Phoenix that you get very little light pollution.

In all of my travels around Arizona, this is one of the most unusual and quirky places to stay. It’s a great weekend trip for getting away from the city, disconnecting from social media and taking time to sit and reflect.

Because Arcosanti is located away from the cities of Phoenix and Flagstaff, it offers a great view of the night sky. 


If you go

  • Make reservations in advance. If you want to stay in the Sky Suite you might need to plan your trip around availability. 
  • If you stay in the Sky Suite make sure to bring some groceries. The kitchen has all the pots and pans you will need but you'll need to bring your own food.
  • If you don't want to cook, you can eat at the cafeteria. 
  • The shower tends to flood easily - you've been warned. 
  • Ask when they are going to be pouring bronze for their famous bells. It's pretty cool to watch.
  • Bring your hiking shoes and a water bottle. It's Arizona be prepared to walk and keep hydrated.
 

Note

I recently learned in research for this blog post that in 2017, Palo Solari's daughter Daniela Soleri was inspired by the #MeToo movement to share her story on Medium about being sexually abused by her father. In addition to sharing her story she also resigned from the board of the Solari's Cosanti Foundation.