Arcosanti - An Urban Laboratory in the Arizona Desert.


by Tomiaki Tamura, Soleri Archives DIrector

Soleri Archives was established in the mid-1990's in an effort to preserve in one location the Soleri original drawings, sketchbooks and manuscripts.  Eventually consolidated at Arcosanti and stored in a climate-controlled vault, these materials are currently being documented and catalogued.   Our present challenge is to establish a conservation program for the paper archives, particularly those damaged because of delicate materials and previous poor storage condition. In 2005 a major Soleri retrospective exhibition was held at Instituto Nazionale per la Grafica in Rome. There, over 100 original drawings were restored by its conservation staff. As we progress in our archival tasks, we hope to see Soleri's works available to the public in many more venues and formats.

Shifting through thousands of archival materials, one wonders at Soleri's prolific output and what his legacy could be to this ever-perplexing world.

photo by Tomiaki TamuraSince his youth, Soleri followed a religion of a less divine sort, taking the original meaning of "religio" that is "to bind". He began binding into volumes his favorite stories of Tarzan. Then he went on to bind (and package) his own drawings and journals. What prompted Soleri to do this integral act of binding? Was it his keen sense of order necessitated by his aesthetics, or was it his attempt to make sense out of a world full of fragmented realities?

Soleri produced many sketchbooks in various formats. The most impressive are in ten volumes started in 1958 and continuing to this day; each consists of about 400 pages, about 14" x 17" (35cm x 45cm) in size,  and is bound between sculpted cast aluminum plates.  Each page of these 10 bound volumes shows fragments  from the stream of his creative consciousness. The contents of the sketchbooks were often sources of further development and expansion expressed on different canvases. One such format is Soleri's trademark open-ended scroll, typically 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm) in width and 30 to 180 feet (10 to 60 m) in length, in which he explored the variations of ideas originated in the sketchbooks.

Soleri's drawings can be seen as simulation of suggested reality suspended in his chosen medium. They are waiting to be explored by the imagination of observers and collaborators interacting with Soleri's creative domain.

Arcosanti, Soleri's urban alternative prototype under construction in Arizona, is an attempt to materialize his idea through the help of a thousand minds. If the act of living includes the pioneering of reality through imagination and sweat, Soleri gave us more than enough food for thought in the examples he left on paper and in the desert wind.

Soleri Archives' main functions are:photo by Jeffrey Kunzelmanphoto by Jeffrey Kunzelman

  • Documentation of Soleri's works and the activities
    of the Cosanti Foundation.
  • Conservation and cataloging of Soleri's works and the related activities.
  • Production of supporting materials for print and electronic media and publication, websites, events, exhibitions and special programs.
  • Collaboration with educational and research institutions, and indivisual scholars
For Image Request, please contact:
Paolo Soleri Archives
13555 S Cross L Rd. Mayer AZ 86333

Activities at the Archives include:

  • Cataloging, labeling, filing, inventory and data
    entry of archival materials.
  • Photographic, digital and audio-video
    documentation of Soleri's works, meetings, events and the related activities.
  • Archival research and assistance.
  • Production of supporting materials for various media.
  • Administrative assistance including correspondence with media, scholars, etc.

Internships: We offer internships for those who are interested in Soleri's work and our archives' activities described above. If you are able to commit 3 months and are qualified, an internship may be for you. Requirements include our 5-week workshop program as a prerequisite and working knowledge of software such as Photoshop, MS Word and Excel.  For more information about internships, see Internship.