Paolo Soleri's Cosanti Tour: Wind chimes and... a Commune?

I recently read some great and inspiring blog posts at Blakes Alive and Little Grey Box on minimalist living and making life changes to follow your dreams, and they really stroke a chord with me.

That's because not too long ago I walked away from a career in the business world to teach, and never looked back. I also sold or gave away most of what I had, took whatever I could fit in my car and moved across the country to start my new family. Sounds extreme, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

cosanti paolo soleri what do to in phoenix
Student Apse (1968)

When my mother-in-law was in town last week, I took her to one of my favorite unconventional places in Phoenix: Cosanti, the studio, gallery and former home of architect, artist, craftsman, and philosopher Paolo Soleri (1919-2013).

Look at that beautiful smile!

Designated as an Arizona Historic Site, Cosanti boasts a unique bio-climatic architectural environment (temperatures under the structures were much lower even without the use of air conditioning) and quite unconventional design elements. Paolo Soleri is also pretty famous around here for his bronze and ceramics Soleri Windbells.

But what is really remarkable about Cosanti is the philosophy behind it. The word “Cosanti” comes from two Italian terms: “cosa” and “anti,” which together mean “against things," or excessive materialism.

According to the Cosanti website, Paolo Soleri wrote:
We put solar panels on a single family home but can’t change the impact of inefficient construction or the consumption inherent to moving around the suburbs. We buy hybrid cars but must drive in the gridlocks of daily commutes. We buy “green washed” products but continue the same hyper consumption that sprawl mandates. These improvements produce a “better kind of wrongness.”

Cosanti was just the beginning. Soleri headed to central Arizona's Upper Sonoran grasslands (along the I-17 highway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon) and founded Arcosanti, a "living demonstration model of a compact town, a proposed alternative to suburban sprawl, concentrated on 25 acres of an 860 acre preserve in the semi arid, Arizona high desert."

He started a commune.

According to Arcosanti's website, Soleri's philosophy of "arcology” (architecture + ecology) attempts to demonstrate an alternative human habitat and a positive response to the many problems of urban civilization, such as population, pollution, energy and natural resource depletion, food scarcity and quality of life. Arcology seeks to embody a “Lean Alternative” to hyper consumption and wastefulness through more frugal, efficient, smart, yet elegant city designs. 

Visiting the Arcosanti desert community is definitely on my Arizona-To-Do List. People can sign up for weeklong workshops, come for the day or stay overnight in guest rooms.

The Cosanti estate, on the other hand, is open daily (hours vary) and closed only on major holidays. Visitors are welcome to take a free self-guided walking tour and may be able to see bronze Windbells being poured, which we arrived just in time to watch!

Piping hot bronze being poured!

Over the years I have become much more conscious about how my little life impacts the planet and the future. We do what we can at home, driving a hybrid car, cloth diapering, line-drying clothes and recycling what we can; but we still live in a sprawling suburb and sometimes need to drive long distances, and our community does use a lot of water to keep grass green (in the middle of this desert).

Even if we don't all get up and move to an utopian commune, the idea of living a conscious, frugal yet meaningful life is something we can all be reminded of.

Would you give up your possessions and live a minimalist lifestyle?

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  1. Hi Lo, thanks for the great introduction to Cosanti. I find the concept of "archeology" interesting. It certainly speaks to me. I'll keep Consanti in mind next time I visit Arizona. Really nice post.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Marisol, that concept definitely speaks to me as well. Hope you get to go one day!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks love! I'm glad we got to see it together also!

  3. So happy to see this still going strong. I visited about 15 years ago and it seemed pretty sleepy. Still have my bell!

    1. Hi Elaine! Awesome that you've visited in the past. It was pretty sleepy, but I liked it better that way! :-)


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About the Writer

I'm Louise, a Tampa Bay based Brazilian-American travel blogger. Join us as we learn and share the ins-and-outs of traveling with a toddler and our sweet rescue pup Oreo, while promoting local nonprofits and wellness along the way.