Arcosanti...



(Note, in the following post, I mention "yesterday" several times. This
would be Monday, Dec 29, 1997, which is really 2 days ago, but still one
sleep-period ago for me, so it's still "yesterday" in my very-local
timeframe. :-)  )


	I just visted Arcosanti, yesterday....Very interesting and
inspiring place.

	For those not familiar, Arcosanti is a prototype arcology that's
being built in the Arizona desert (USA). An arcology is a large-scale urban
structure built in a compact fashion to facilitate efficient usage of
resources while minimizing the problems of urban sprawl. A simplified view
is that it's a "city in a building", where everyone lives within walking
distance of where they work, don't need cars to get around (thus reducing
pollution, traffic, etc.), and conserve energy/heat/water by designing
systems that shuttle resources from one area to another in a quick, easy,
and efficient manner. 

	For more details on the Arcosanti Project, and oodles of photos and
supporting information, check out http://www.arcosanti.org/

	I've been interested in their project for close to 10 years, at
least. (Not sure when I first heard about it, exactly...) It's been under
construction for the past 27 years, and is taking shape as a rather
impressive achievement. 

	Right now, Arcosanti houses 65 full-time residents, and eventually,
they expect to have 6-7000 people living there. The project is all
self-funded, primarily by the sale of bells made by the local artisans, and
also with donated time & labor by people taking construction workshops
there. They have a large influx of temporary residents during the summer
months, when students come out for 5 weeks of in-depth and hands on study
in the building of the city.


	I find a very large amount of overlap in what Arcosanti is doing,
and in some of the things I'd like to see Reality Sculptors doing as we
move into the future. The whole idea of building a city is exciting,
intimidating, and liberating, all at once. There are many, MANY things to
be taken into consideration, and many possible pitfalls along the way. 
	With any luck, studying other groups working towards the same goals
will allow us all to reinforce each other's knowledge with a minimum of
setbacks and mistakes. 

	One thing that I learned yesterday at Arcosanti is the recurring
problem they have with their construction, and that is unskilled
labor. I've been thinking of building a floating-city construct called
"UniverCity" which acts as a free-floating, international University
environment for about 100,000 faculty, staff, and students, out in the
ocean somewhere. I thought that the idea of bringing in students who were
interested in city-planning, construction, running day-to-day affairs,
etc., would be an excellent source of continuing new input, ideas, and
people-power to keep things moving along.
	Arcosanti is doing this, to some extent, but with their 5-week
workshops, they get people in, orient them, train them a bit, and they
leave.  Thus, every 5 weeks, they're back at ground-zero with a new crop of
fresh, imaginitive, yet unskilled, people. Granted, in a university
environment, you would expect people to stay on for a 3-5 year period,
which would ameliorate things to some extent, but that IS a
consideration. Construction methods shouldn't be so confusing that they are
only able to be performed by a small subset of highly-skilled people, or it
will take forever to get things going. 
	Arcosanti is (unfortunately) a good example of this problem. While
they are making definite progress, it's taken them a long time to do
so. They are still working towards a "Critical Mass" in order to jump-start
the Arcology/City into full-functioning ability. They've been at it for 27
years, and it's still quite a ways from this point.
	A rather disturbing realization just hit me, and that is that 27
years from now is the start of 2025. That's the tentative target-date for
the "Critical Mass" that I'd like to have set up for the Oceana
floating-city. And from a purely construction viewpoint, I think a good
portion of it could be done in the next 5-10 years, but we all know how
things can fall behind schedule. :-)
	If you're not familiar with it already, I'd recommend reading my
paper at http://www.sculptors.com/~salsbury/Oceana/ for background
info. (For another point of reference, I wrote that paper 5.5 years ago,
and it's still just an idea, not something floating, yet. Sure, I only live
about 20 miles from the shore of the Pacific Ocean, but perhaps in another
5.5 years, we could be 20 miles OFFshore in the Pacific Ocean. (Or perhaps
farther...)

	If we extend this idea forward, and use the framework that Marshall
Savage does in his "Millenium Project" book, then we begin to consider the
idea of perhaps as many as 1000 floating cities. Perhaps even more. 
	While envisioning the creation of 1000 cities seems like a lot, at
100,000 people per city, it will still only house 1,000,000,000
people. That will ease the burden on the land by approximately 15%, which
is a start, but by the time we've built 1000 cities, the world population
will have grown by more than 15%, I think.


	A few more thoughts about Arcosanti... 
	They have oodles of sunlight, just piles and piles of it, yet
they're buying their electricity from a local utility. Apparently, solar is
still not cost-effective enough to be considered as an option for
them. (Does anyone know how difficult it is to manufacture solar panels?)
	They have what appears to be a steady water supply from the
aquifier in their region, and there's a small stream that's flowing through
and filling up a sizable pond that may be used for fish-farming, and
perhaps eventually, aquaponics. However, at least yesterday, it wasn't
exibiting very much flow-volume. (Less than 10 gal/minute, would be my
guess), so it is probably unsuitable for mini-hydroelectric right now. (They
do have the potential for perhaps 100-200' of head if they built a proper
reservoir/dam structure, but would need to catch water during the rainy
season.) I'm not sure of their general water efficiency designs, but to
support 6-7000 people, they'll have to be quite good with this. They're
already doing some nice rain catchment and storage, and one would think
that as the structure grows, they will be able to collect more rainwater. 
	They are doing several things with greenhouses and local food
production, yet no hydroponics at this point. There is some talk of it in
the future, and perhaps their need isn't great, yet, but to support the
eventual population loading, I would think they'll need high-density
production that hydroponics enables. Coupled with the fish-farming, they
might arrive at some very nice regenerative aquaponic solutions.
	Funding is an issue. As with most things, it seems to be the
limiting factor. And while I commend their commitment to doing things "under
their own power", it does seem to severly curtail what they're capable of
doing. As a result, it's very apparent that Arcosanti is a "labor of love"
and that it's built by people who care about it, rather than just by
contractors hired for a job. But by the same token, it's also a slowly
developing and organically growing labor of love, not a quickly assembled
and instantly in-service construct, ready to further the long-term goals of
researching the Arcology concept.
	I'm not sure exactly how to get around this seeming
dichotomy. Ideally, I guess we'd all be independently wealthy folks who
really care about building the future, and we'd just fund it ourselves,
work ourselves silly, and have this shining example in a year or two. But
realistically... Well, let's just say that I'm not independently wealthy,
yet... :-)

	Paolo Soleri, the originator of the whole Arcology/Arcosanti
concept, has done a lot of work on this subject, and I got to leaf through
one of his books there, yesterday, as well as see several models and
drawings that go into much detail on the design of these
"cities in a building". These include a couple of designs for
floating-cities, as well as various land- and space-based cities. There are
some excellent photos on their website. 

	All-in-all, I really enjoyed myself, and would HEARTILY recommend a
visit by anyone who happens to find themselves near Phoenix Arizona. (Or
Las Vegas or Los Angeles, as it's within about 5-6 hours drive of there...)
And I would definitely recommend a visit to their website. That's free and
easy. :-)

	As we look forward, I think we can learn from Arcosanti's example,
and make improvements in our own designs for future communities, cities,
and countries. I also think there's a significant overlap there with our
goals that could be greatly served by some of the expertise on these
lists. (I'm beginning to consider spending some extended time there in the
future to help out...)
	All-totaled, there are more people subscribed just to the
domesteading list than there are living full-time in Arcosanti. And in
Arcosanti, they're keeping a small community going and growing. I think
this is a fairly good omen. :-)
	In fact, it brings to mind a quote:

   Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can
     change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does. . .
						-Margaret Mead
				     

	:-)


	And last but most certainly not least... Post something. If there's
anything in the above musings that strikes a personal chord with you, then
by all means, snip it out and post a reply to the list. That's what builds
a community, after all.	And without other people to interact with, I'm just
one person posting random missives out into the void. That's no fun. :-)

Pat
	   ___________________Think For Yourself____________________
		 Patrick G. Salsbury <salsbury at sculptors dot com>
		     http://www.sculptors.com/~salsbury/
			   -----------------------
     "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
						-Oscar Wilde




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