Monday, May 9, 2011


I began this blog with a statement from my experiences and education out on the Arizona mesa and Grand Canyon, related to my graduate studies at San Luis Obispo. The concepts we studied as a university class and as workshoppers at Arcosanti were about how people are influenced by their experiences in form and community. The intellectual structure of Paolo Soleri's work evolved from a design generation based upon the work of the philosopher/priest Teilhard de Chardin, which expresses the idea that human culture can create spiritual evolution to an "Omega Point" if given the right form of habitation that is directed towards a high level of human interaction and socialization. This was dubbed the Noosphere as it is laid out in the thesis for this kind of form generation.

The form of these habitats are designed and driven by passive energy principles, and the source of food is locally-grown with water and waste recycling as absolute prerequisites. It's a web-of-life prototype, where all things are interconnected, just as in nature. Miniaturization and integrative life cycle/energy strategies are the direction of the future, following the trajectory of Moore's law, and are part of Soleri's philosophy of using form and streamlining to reduce the impact of humanity on the landscape. That means more and more powerful, effective tools that consume less and less space and relieve the tedium of repetitive labor and work. This reduces the time demand for the drudgery of tasks, and allows this energy to be harnessed in the support of creative and expressive work that connects culture and human interaction. Which is the story of human cultural evolution as societies made the work of survival more and more efficient over thousands of years, and traded ideas and information, cross-fertilizing the creativity that energizes the arts, humanities, science, law and government.

Not only does the form of the arcologies become self-sustaining, but the reduced footprint provides the open spaces for natural regeneration of ecosystems. This theme of building community with efficiencies of scale and conservation of energy and resources is one that has been a strong thread in the architectural community since I first began working and studying architecture, design and urban planning. It was expressed in school as "Long Life, Low Energy, Loose Fit", which is an approach that generates forms that accommodate human needs in a way that does not demand extremes of technology and energy to adapt to its local site, and also provides the flexibility that allows it to shelter many different patterns of living. This responds to what we now call "social media" as the glue that holds a society together and moves it to higher levels of interaction and cooperation. Kind of a "tribal high-rise" as it were.

The future of the global environment, the synergy (greater than the sum of its parts) of the natural world and human societies, lies in the balance of these things.