Paolo Soleri

born June 21, 1919 – died April 9th, 2013

Paolo Soleri was an Italian architect. He established the educational Cosanti Foundation and Arcosanti. Soleri was a lecturer in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University and a National Design Award recipient in 2006. He died at home of natural causes on 9 April 2013 at the age of 93.[2]

Soleri authored several books, including The Bridge Between Matter & Spirit is Matter Becoming Spirit and Arcology – City In the Image of Man.[3]

1 Early life
2 Arcosanti
3 Other achievements
4 Awards
5 Sexual abuse allegation
6 See also
7 References
8 External links
Early life
Soleri was born in Turin, Italy, Europe. He was awarded his “laurea” (master’s degree) in architecture from the Politecnico di Torino in 1946. He visited the United States in December 1946 and spent a year and a half in fellowship with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona, and at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. During this time, he gained international recognition for a bridge design that was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art.[citation needed]

In 1950, Soleri, with his wife Colly (née Corolyn Woods), returned to Italy where he was commissioned to build a large ceramics factory, Ceramica Artistica Solimene, in Vietri on the Amalfi coast.[4]

Soleri adapted ceramics industry processes learned at this time to use in his award-winning designs and production of ceramic and bronze windbells and silt-cast architectural structures. For more than 40 years, proceeds from sales of the wind-bells have been an important source of funds for construction that is meant to test his theoretical work. Ceramic and bronze bells continue to be produced and sold at Arcosanti and Cosanti in Arizona.[citation needed]

In 1956, Soleri settled in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Colly and the elder of their two daughters; the younger was born in Arizona. He began building Arcosanti in 1970 with the help of architecture and design students, as a place to test his urban design hypotheses. This “urban laboratory” (so-dubbed by Ada Louise Huxtable, who at the time was the architectural critic of The NY Times) became internationally renowned.[5]

Paolo and Colly Soleri made a lifelong commitment to research and experimentation in urban planning. They established the Cosanti Foundation, a 501-3C educational non-profit foundation. Soleri’s philosophy and works were strongly influenced by the Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.[citation needed]

Soleri died on 9 April 2013 and was buried at Arcosanti in its private cemetery, beside his wife.[5]


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The Cosanti Foundation’s major project is Arcosanti. Arcosanti, as originally designed by Soleri, was intended for 5,000 people; it has been in construction since 1970. Located near Cordes Junction, about 70 miles (110 km) north of Phoenix and visible from Interstate I-17 in central Arizona, the intention of the project is to provide a model that can demonstrate Soleri’s concept of “Arcology”, architecture coherent with ecology. Arcology was envisioned by Soleri as a hyper-dense city, designed to: maximize human interaction with ready access to shared, cost-effective infrastructural services; conserve water and reduce sewage; minimize the use of energy, raw materials and land; reduce waste and environmental pollution; increase interaction with the surrounding natural environment. In 2010, construction was underway to complete Arcosanti’s Greenhouse Apron, but that initiative was put on hold not long after Soleri’s death in 2013.[citation needed]

Arcosanti is intended as a prototype of a desert arcology. Soleri’s other arcology designs envisioned sites such as the ocean (Nova Noah), et al. (see: Arcology: City in the Image of Man). Since 1970, over 7000 people have participated in Arcosanti’s construction. Their international affiliation group is called the Arcosanti Alumni Network.[6]

Other achievements
The International Architecture Symposium “Mensch und Raum” (Man and Space) at the Vienna University of Technology in 1984 received international attention. Paolo Soleri participated with, among others: Justus Dahinden, Dennis Sharp, Bruno Zevi, Jorge Glusberg, Otto Kapfinger, Frei Otto, Pierre Vago, Ernst Gisel, and Ionel Schein.[citation needed]

Soleri was a distinguished lecturer in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University and a member of the Lindisfarne Association.[citation needed]

In 1966, Paolo Soleri began working on the design for the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was built for the IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) on what is now the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School using large silt cast forms. The property is owned by the nineteen Native American Pueblos of New Mexico and is therefore not protected by local or state preservation laws.[7]

A landmark exhibition, “City in the Image of Man – The Architectural Visions of Paolo Soleri”, organized in 1970 by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, traveled extensively thereafter in the U.S. and Canada, breaking records for attendance. “Two Suns Arcology, A Concept for Future Cities” opened in 1976 at the Xerox Square Center in Rochester, New York. In 1989, “Paolo Soleri Habitats: Ecologic Minutiae”, an exhibition of arcologies, space habitats, and bridges, was presented at the New York Academy of Sciences. More recently, “Soleri’s Cities, Architecture for the Planet Earth and Beyond” was featured at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in Scottsdale, AZ. A Soleri bell appears in the film What the *Bleep* Do We Know? His work has been exhibited worldwide.[citation needed]

In 1976, Paolo Soleri was a key participant at UN Habitat I, the first UN forum on human settlements, held it Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, North America. Soleri appeared there together with Buckminster Fuller.[citation needed]

The Paolo Soleri Archives, the collection of Soleri’s drawings and writings, is located at Arcosanti. The Soleri Archives is managed by Sue Kirsch under the direction of Tomiaki Tamura, a Cosanti Board Trustee and Arcosanti’s Director of Special Projects. Tomiaki Tamura resides at Arcosanti.[citation needed]

An interview with Soleri was featured in the environmental documentary The 11th Hour (2007).[citation needed]

On 10 December 2010, the Soleri Bridge and Plaza was completed.[8] The structure had been commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art. The 130-foot (40 m) pedestrian bridge based on Paolo Soleri’s design is located on the South Bank of the Arizona Canal and connects a developed retail area of the Scottsdale Waterfront with Old Town Scottsdale. The bridge is incorporated into a 22,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) plaza including silt cast artwork, as well as a large bell assembly called The Goldwater Bell, also designed by Paolo Soleri.[citation needed]

The feature-length documentary film The Vision Of Paolo Soleri: Prophet In The Desert (2013) contains interviews with Morley Safer, Paul Goldberger, Catherine Hardwicke, Will Bruder, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Steven Holl, and Eric Lloyd Wright.[9]

Soleri received fellowships from the Graham Foundation and from the Guggenheim Foundation (1964, Architecture, Planning, & Design[10]). He was awarded three honorary doctorates and several awards from design groups worldwide:[citation needed]

1963 – American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Craftmanship
1981 – Gold Medal at the World Bienniale of Architecture held by the International Academy of Architecture in Sofia, Bulgaria
1984 – Silver Medal of the Academie d’ Architecture in Paris
1996 – Honorary Fellow, Royal Institute of British Architects
2000 – Leone d’oro at the Venice Biennale of Architecture for his lifelong achievement
2006 – Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for lifetime achievement
Sexual abuse allegation
On 13 November 2017, Daniela Soleri – Paolo Soleri’s daughter – published an article on the website Medium accusing her father of persistent sexual abuse, writing:

“In my early adolescence, my father, an architect and craftsman, began sexually molesting me, eventually attempting rape when I was 17.”[11]

Encouraged to publish the article by the #MeToo movement, Daniela wrote that she had already come forward to many of her father’s colleagues but received little response:
I finally told some of Soleri’s inner circle about my experiences about 24 years ago, others learned of them six years ago when I tendered my letter of resignation from the board of Soleri’s Cosanti Foundation, with an explanation of why. In response to receiving my letter, one of my father’s long time colleagues and board member wrote “I am disappointed in everyone.” A strange reaction from a man I had known since I was seven. Two years later he presided at a memorial seminar eulogizing Soleri and his work. His message seemed to be that, yes, he’s disappointed that those things occurred, but he’s equally disappointed that they are being brought up, instead of silenced.[11]

In the article, Daniela wrote about her lingering admiration for some of Soleri’s work and ideas. However, she also warned against uncritical praise of artists with abusive tendencies and the tendency to “accept abusive behavior as a necessary and justified cost for the contributions of intellect or creativity”.[11] Of her father, Daniela wrote:

Soleri has been dead for nearly five years. The swell of hagiographic films, essays and performances has slowed, hopefully making room for a more useful perspective that includes not only consideration of his work, but also honest acknowledgment that he was flawed. That work will have to stand on its own, and not be seen as an inseparable part of Soleri as a person, including his best and worst behaviors.[11]

As noted in Dezeen, Daniela’s article suggested that she had approached The New York Times or other news publishers to discuss her father’s abuse, but had been turned away.[12] The Cosanti Foundation Board released an official statement in response to Daniela Soleri’s:

We are saddened by Daniela Soleri’s trauma. Her decision to speak out about her father’s behavior towards her helps us confront Paolo Soleri’s flaws, and compels us to reconsider his legacy. With Paolo Soleri’s creative intelligence, he understood the need for discipline and limits to the urban form. However, his narcissism prevented him from understanding the need for discipline and limits on abusive behavior. We support and stand firmly with Daniela.

We know that Arcosanti and Cosanti are much greater than the ideas of one man. Over the past fifty years, more than 8,000 participants from all over the world have contributed to Arcosanti and Cosanti through our workshops and programs. Our work in urban planning will continue. It was considered radical fifty years ago and has proven itself relevant today. Our goal is a built environment inspired by Soleri’s architecture that fosters community, integrates the natural world, and nurtures the best of human nature.[13]

Curbed editor-in-chief Kelsey Keith wrote “[Daniela] Soleri’s account is breathtaking not only for its thorough and very personal reckoning with the truth, but for its clear-eyed articulation of the reasons why assigning all intellectual power to a solitary genius is so harmful.”[13] Keith noted that architecture as a profession “hasn’t (yet) experienced its Weinstein moment”, referring to the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations and the resulting “Weinstein effect” of reporting sexual misconduct committed by powerful men in media and other industries.[13] In a 2018 Curbed article, Hilary George-Parkin said:

“While Hollywood, tech, sports, media, politics, the restaurant industry, and others are reeling from high-profile revelations and resignations, the design world has remained—with the notable exception of Daniela Soleri’s account of sexual abuse by her father, architect Paolo Soleri—mostly undisturbed in the public realm.”[14]

See also
This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (October 2018)

“Biographical profile: Paolo Soleri”. Arcosanti.
Bernstein, Fred A. (April 10, 2013). “Paolo Soleri, Architect of Counterculture, Dies at 93”. The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
Falk, Peter (1999). Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975 : 400 Years of Artists in America. Madison, CT: Sound View Press. p. 3103. ISBN 0932087558.
“Solimene Ceramics Factory Video”. October 15, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
Karissa, Rosenfield. “Remembering Paolo Soleri 1919–2013”. Architecture Daily. ArchDaily. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
Arcosanti Alumni Network. Retrieved from
“Paolo Soleri to be demolished”. June 11, 2010. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
Soleri Bridge and Plaza. Retrieved from
“The Vision of Paolo Soleri: Prophet in the Desert”. IMDb. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
“All Fellows (S)”. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
Soleri, Daniela (2017-11-14). “Sexual abuse: It’s you, him, and his work”. Medium. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
Gibson, Eleanor (2017-12-18). “Paolo Soleri accused of sexual abuse by daughter”. Dezeen. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
Keith, Kelsey (2017-12-15). “Architect Paolo Soleri’s daughter Daniela recounts childhood abuse in open letter”. Curbed. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
Hilary, George-Parkin (2018-02-28). “How top architecture firms measure up in the #MeToo era”. Curbed. Retrieved 2018-03-15.

S. Suatoni (a cura di) ‘Paolo Soleri. Etica e Invenzione Urbana’, catalogo della mostra, Roma 8 ottobre 2005- 8 gennaio 2006 (Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Maxxi, Casa dell’Architettura), Roma Palombi, Jaca book 2006
Sharp, Dennis (1981). Sources of Modern Architecture: A Critical Bibloography (2nd ed.). Eastview Editions. pp. 121–122. ISBN 0-89860-050-2.
Lenci, Ruggero. Paolo Soleri. Encyclopedia Italiana Treccani, V appendix.
Enrico Sicignano. “Paolo Soleri Fabbrica di ceramica a Vietri sul mare” (PDF).
External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Paolo Soleri.
Emanuele Piccardo, P.Soleri on YouTube, an interview at Cosanti in 2006
Lisa A. Scafuro. Phoenix Home & Garden. March, 2008, Page 270. “Paolo Soleri: The Lifetime Achievements of a Living Legacy”
Jared Keller article about Soleri urbanistic envisions. “Desert Utopia”