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  1. You always write such interesting and thoughtful comments, Jonathan — thank you! :)

    Re Soleri: there does seem to be quite a bit of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ still extant in city planning. I remember the furor about BART building an extension out to the San Francisco airport — apparently “undesirables” would be traveling through a “nice” neighborhood to get there, gasp! There was similar horror in the planning for the San Jose Light Rail, as I recall. I can see people like that not really wanting to build the type of community which Soleri envisioned with those they see (&/or fear?) as their “lessers.”

    Maybe that’s what Soleri — or his disciples — need to work on next: how to change inner city sprawl into the beginnings of an arcology. I’m not talking about the concept of gentrification here, of course — that just throws out all the people and communities who were living there. I have to admit, though: what do you do with those who were living there, while you try to build a new place?

  2. Paolo Soleri was the first to come up with the concept of ‘arcology.’ Since that time, his initial vision of the ecologically-friendly, compact and low-impact city has been mostly ignored in favor of continued urban sprawl, leading to the concentric rings that characterize most modern US cities (and some European ones): A depressed inner city that’s been more or less abandoned, a ring of commercial and industrial districts where most of the employment takes place, and a residential sprawl the goes on and on and on.

    Soleri’s ideas were revolutionary, in part because there’s no way any extant city could implement them. part of it is cost — they’d be rebuilding the entire city — but part of it is tribalism. The suburban sprawls have a vested psychological interest in keeping the inner city inhabitants separated from them. This is also partly why cheap rapid transit has such a hard time gaining a foothold: Certain people don’t want it to be ‘too easy’ for ‘them’ to come out to the suburbs.

    Soleri’s ideas should have taken hold, though. With the growth of the 70’s and 80’s, there was excellent opportunity to apply his arcology ideas. And yet, they didn’t. I think part of it smacked too much of ‘communism’ for some people (and yes, that’s a ridiculous notion) and for others, it was just too ‘different.’ I admit, I’d like to hear what an authoritarian would have to say about Soleri’s ideas, if to just see if I’m right about why they weren’t implemented.

    As an interesting side-note, I think he would be horrified at the idea of the arcology as implemented in cyberpunk: Huge towering edifices, completely self-contained, might have on the surface fulfilled the needs of maximizing comfortable human habitation, but they did so without blending into the existing ecosystem. Just the opposite: They existed by eliminating the existing ecosystem and replacing it with one that is entirely artificial.

  3. What I love best about it, honestly, is that other people are starting to think of eco-friendly living cities and communities as well. If we start to build in such a way that we live more gently on the Earth, then I think that’s a big win not just for Soleri’s vision, but for all of us. Personally, I’d love to live in an eco-friendly city enviroment! :)

    I don’t really know myself why the county is being so stringent. I figure either Soleri wanted way too many changes all the time, or the county board is just being jerks? ;)

  4. It sounds like a beautiful idea that some very dedicated people are struggling to build, despite the relentless and impersonal pressures of bureaucracy. It is a shame when something with the potential to be beautiful is crushed by thoughtless rules.

    I am not surprised the recessions hurt them, but saddened to hear they haven’t found new big donors. I’m also surprised and confused by the response of the county planners, and find that a crying shame.

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