Paolo Soleri, a visionary architect and designer of Arcosanti, the eccentric arts settlement in the Arizona desert that was a mecca for young creative-types during the hippie-era and a pioneer of the sustainable architecture movement, died at 93 this week. His desert property was a laboratory where he erected buildings that were harmonious with the native environment. Architecture and ecology had to be viewed as a whole, Soleri wrote. So after he apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright, Soleri developed a philosophy he called arcology — architecture coupled with ecology — that was an alternative to suburban sprawl. This involved the building densely packed, bee-hive-like buildings. Many people flocked to him for wisdom. I recall, during the late sixties, some female friends of mine paid hard cash to intern with Soleri and live and work at Arcosanti for weeks at a time. (Read more about Soleri here.)
One small part of Soleri’s legacy is a major work of graphic design, the typographically adventurous book about his ideas, Paolo Soleri: Visionary Cities (Praeger Publishers, 1971), authored and designed by architecture professor Donald Wall. The book design, which Rick Poynor described in Eye magazine, prefigures the typographic antics of the nineties, yet is a continuation of the concrete poetry and Fluxus typographic experimentation from the fifties and sixties. Wall was the prototype of “designer as author,” who handily manipulated word and image, combining word into image — taking Herb Lubalin’s penchant for smashed letters to a new level. But his layouts also echoed what Quentin Fiore was already doing with Marshall McLuhan in The Medium is the Massage.
The book contains a labyrinth of typographic meanderings framing words of Soleri and others, or as the flap copy says even better (in lower case type):
paolo soleri’s radical aesthetic and philosophy for urban man are presented in this unique book, which embodies new graphic concepts to express the innovative insights of this most controversial architect. soleri’s historical importance and social relevance cannot be over estimated. he is the only american architect who advocates a no-holds-barred, full-blast use of bigness in city design, and his projections for new cities, called arcologies, are stunning portrayals of what inevitably awaits the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
To honor Soleri during this week of his passing, below are some pages from Visionary Cities. (Note the page below/top is the copyright page.)