"The single-family house is the single most consumptive and segregational habitat that we can conceive."
Paolo Soleri is a visonary of the sort that we desparately need today. The 85 year old architect, who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright, has spent the last three decades working on a "lean alternative" to suburbia which is designed to provide housing and facilites for 5,000 people on 25 acres. Named Arcosanti, the community is Soleri's experiment in compact, high density living that minimizes the need for transportation, and uses innovative methods for heating and cooling. Residents walk to the foundry, to peach and apple orchards and to greenhouses where they grow herbs and vegetables. A tunnel system is designed to channel solar heated air from a ten acre greenhouse to the entire complex. In the summer, small ponds outside building enrances provide evaporative cooling to interiors. A portion of Arcosanti's electric power is generated by solar panels and a windmill. Although the complex is only 4 percent complete and houses only 75 permanent residents, Soleri remains convinced that something like Ascrosanti is humanity's only hope. "The choice is clear," he says. "The single-family home, and suburbia with it, goes—or we humans go."
After three decades, the approaching end of cheap oil has a growing number of people agreeing with Ascrosanti that the end of cheap energy will mean the end of suburbia.