by Christoffer Rasmussen, Master student in Building Climate and Energy Engineering, DTU
Arcosanti is an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability. The goal is to actively pursue lean alternatives to urban sprawl based on Paolo Soleri’s theory of compact city design, Arcology (architecture + ecology). Arcosanti is built by over 7,000 volunteers since the commencement of the project in 1970, and provides various mixed-use buildings and public spaces where people live, work, visit, and participate in educational and cultural programs.
For three days in the end of February my brother and I was visiting this place in the middle of the hot and dusty desert of Arizona. Being the fly on the wall in this comfortable, rough, but eye pleasing environment mostly built from huge concrete elements, looking at the daily routines in the small community, has been an exquisite pleasure.
Compared to the nordic climate, a place like the desert of Arizona is a playground when it comes to experimental buildings – beside the extreme summer temperatures. The constructions can simply be made in a very straight forward manner, due the small amounts of rain and high temperatures – And regarding rain and water proof roofs; you can choose between a nice roof or a water tight roof, as Frank Lloyd Wright was saying about his fabric roof constructions, in Taliesin West in Phoenix. However, during the daytime hours of our stay, the temperature rose to almost 30 degree celcius, and the indoor environment was still comfortable due to the extensive use of heavy materials and the relatively cold nights. A visit in the summer may show if Arcosanti still can keep cool and charming.