CHAPTER 11

THE TROUBLE WITH AUTOCRATIC ARCHITECTURE:

A CRITICAL AND COCREATIVE LOOK AT PAOLO SOLERI’S ARCOSANTI

 

"In vain we build the city if we do not first build the man."
Edwin Markham

 

Introduction
Being the Change
Social Architecture as part of the Arcology Equation
Needed Dialogues
Politics of Arcology
The Opression of Synergic Power at Arcosanti
Collective Unconsciousness
Memes and the Poetics of Love
Lessons Learned
Sexual Architecture within an Arcology

Illustrations

Who Should Rule An Arcology?
Urban Effect Paradigm = Lovolution
Creativity

Evolutionary Human Relationships


After completing my doctorate, I traveled to several continents looking at housing patterns in both in South Africa and in Turkey where I attended the United Nations Habitat 2 conference in Istanbul. It appeared that the theory of archetypes in architecture that I had been writing about was valid. The archetype of the primate hut had evolved into the single-family house, the model of development even in the “developing world.” Coke Cola could be bought even in the remote villages in Turkey. Sophisticated shopping malls were common place in South Africa. Thus, the problem of urban sprawl and all the social consequences involved with over population and uncontrollable urban development could be explained using my Gaia theory of architecture.

The year was 1999. I was in search of an intentional community in which to live and work in for the rest of my 21st Century life in order to live truer to what my research had lead me to, the reality that we must live collectively by sharing resources and life together if we are to survive in peace with Planet Earth. After traveling to Findhorn, Scotland and Arcosanti, Arizona, I thought I found a place for myself at Arcosanti as the coordinator of a new program Dr. Paolo Soleri was forming called the Paradox Project.

Some of the ideas behind the Paradox Project were that as our society becomes more connected through telephone and Internet usage, the people of the world are becoming more alienated from the local environment and from their neighbors. People spend time communicating over the Internet to people all over the world whom they have never seen in real life while spending little, if any, time understanding the way the basic functions of the city work such as where food is grown or how sewage is treated. One of the goals of the Paradox Project was to overcome this problem between real-life and cyberspace by experimenting with the intersection of arcology and cyberspace. Half the day was to be spent in cyberspace working to develop the virtual Arcosanti model while the other half of the working day was to be spent on constructing and maintaining the prototype arcology.

The Paradox Project was attempting to develop a new lifestyle for the 21st Century, one that could create a healthy balance between virtual reality and life in an arcology. During this time, I felt that visualizing a network of arcologies located in different bioregions around the globe, all connected to the global brain of the Internet where Bucky Fuller’s World Management Committee could evolve, could well be the transformative vision we needed to make a better world possible.

I was excited to be part of a project that I thought was so cutting edge to developing a new urban lifestyle. We were actually building a virtual model in cyberspace at the same time trying to live the revolutionary model we had designed. I also saw the project working out the dilemma of environmental teachers who teach about human rights and ecology in schools and universities that were neither sustainable nor based on social equality. At Arcosanti, I dreamed about teaching and action, theory and practice coming together. In my heart, I thought that the Paradox Project could found the first arcology school at Arcosanti where we were able to live what we preached. The new communication technologies and high-speed Internet assess could have allowed us to broadcast our social design for a better world right from the place we where living out a new collective dream while building an evolutionary architecture.

But alas, my social idealistic spirit couldn’t manifest any of these positive visions I had at Arcosanti. The following essay was written after Soleri kicked me out of Arcosanti after he read and disapproved of an essay I wrote about his arcology theory. What I learned most of all at Arcosanti was that any free society, or even small community, needs freedom of speech in order to grow. In a dictatorship because of the lack of freedom of speech, changing the social structure is difficult, if not impossible to do. I’m including this chapter in my book as a chapter on being the change you want to see in the world, the famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi. At Arcosanti, I was the change I wanted to see in the world. The essay reads as follows:

Being the Change

After living at Arcosanti for a year and a half I wish to share some insights about the project and some ideas on how to improve it. Living at Arcosanti allowed me to visualize what life might be like in a prototype arcology of 5,000 people.

During my stay at Arcosanti which now has a population of around sixty people, I realized that a revolutionary design does not alone build a functioning city. An arcology (architecture fused with ecology) is the revolutionary architectural design that Paolo Soleri advocates. Arcosanti, in its future form, wishes to prototype an arcology. I have concluded that is only part of the formula for creating an alternative development model to the urban sprawl. Also needed is a social architecture that allows for community development. Community development should be seen as contributing a value equal to the physical structure. In other words, the psychological foundation is just as important to the health of the Arcosanti project as its physical foundation. But a positive psychological foundation is not being laid.

Social Architecture as part of the Arcology Equation

Creating a social architecture within an arcological framework will require networking and a multidisciplinary approach to the creative process. Futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard in her work Conscious Evolution writes, "conscious evolution is a metadiscipline; the purpose of this metadiscipline is to learn how to be responsible for the ethical guidance of our evolution" (58).

Hubbard clearly states our problem in the following:

In the midst of our confusion, however, a new story of evolution is emerging that has the potential to inspire us to creative action. It is coming from the combined insights of many disciplines; scientific, historical, psychological, ecological, social, spiritual, and futuristic. But it has not yet found its artistic or popular expression. We discover fragments in journals, poems, books, lectures, conferences, seminars, and networks of those interested in it. We see flashes in science fiction films. But it has not yet been pieced together and told with the power required to awaken the social potential within us and to guide us in the 21st century towards a future of infinite possibilities" (24).

The new worldview already exists in an early stage. There is a large and growing body of knowledge in almost every area-science, psychology, cosmology, art, literature, philosophy, and business-but there is not a definable field called conscious evolution to coordinate all the separate insights (63).

Arcology is the artistic and architectural expression needed to build a new story because architecture has the potential to bring together the evolutionary consciousnesses brought forth by Barbara Hubbard. Building an arcology could allow us to focus our energy and coordinate all the parts into a holistic structure. This is necessary because as Hubbard states so far we haven't found a way to bring about a holistic world view; we haven't discovered a way to shift the paradigm to renewal energies; we haven't found the solutions to how to handle our wastes, especially, nuclear wastes; and we haven't created a planetary structure that would allow us to preserve our natural resources; nor have we found a social order that would free us to grow into our unique selves and be respected for that self within the context of a maturing species. Hubbard states, "If the crisis is natural, so is the response" (68). What could be more natural to us than to build a new form of architecture in which to test our ideas? As Soleri said before he rejected the idea of a spiritual realm, "the bridge between matter and spirit is matter becoming spirit". But whatever Soleri now thinks of the concept of "spirit," arcology is matter becoming spirit. It is a concrete way for us to visualize conscious evolution in creative, labor intensive action.

In architectural critic R.D. Dripps' book, The First House, he writes that the word "construct" is derived from the Latin, construere meaning "to heap together, to pile up or to fit together" (66). One of the roots of construct is "construe" which means, "to interpret, to put a meaning on or to explain" (66). Even though "construct" has more reference to parts, "construe" refers more to the whole, synthesizing the parts, giving the whole the "task of directing its own assembly." For Dripps this means that constructing is both a synthetic and an analytic activity. He explains that in the synthetic mode, a human being is putting together a complete picture of the world and visualizing her/his place in it. The world works as a guide of action in that it holds unity both intellectually and physically. According to Dripps, this synthetic mode creates a paradigmatic structure, which is always directed towards unity, synthesis, and closure.

In other words, to construct requires a "mental structure through which the physical structure of the institution is realized" (73). If this statement rings true for the Arcosanti project, the construction site exists because of the social architecture that is enabling the physical construction to take place.

Arcosanti, then, could not exist without a political organization in place. For the past 30 years, the political structure in place has been an autocracy. To say that Arcosanti is only a "construction" site that does not have to bother with community and cultural development, or building an internal intrastructure as Soleri claims is simply a false statement. Arcology, the fusion of the hut and the city, has both an outside and an inside.

Dripps goes on to explain the profound connection between origins of speech and the origins of architecture. Spatial reasoning allows humans to build architecture by orienting themselves in the world. He writes, "Speech, then has a political intention. It is through speech that the collective works out what it means to live the good life together. Architecture locates this collective in the world" (16). The gathering of people initiates the discourse in which architecture is derived. Thus architecture works from the inside out, from collective speech to personal action.


Needed Dialogues

So, then, what are the dialogues being ignored by Soleri yet needed to build a prototype arcology?

Part of the Dialogue: Economic Development

Economically sustainable development should be one of the main points in the dialogue. An arcology should include an economic model that combines the best elements of the past economic experiments to create a new level social equity. An architecture based on economic and social equity is designed differently than one that supports a plutocratic and hyperconsumerist class at the top of the social stratification.

Part of the Dialogue: The Role of Women and Children

The roles of women and children within an arcology also are critical to the dialogue. Architects should look at political factors in the city-making process because different forms of power create different public/private spaces. For example, in cities where children's educational needs are valued, space will be provided for nurseries and educational facilities. In such societies, childcare centers and educational facilities are not after thoughts in the design schemes. They are part of the blueprints for healthy societies that value both the needs of working women and men and for the education and care of their offspring. But in its thirty-year existence, Arcosanti has failed to establish a school for children or even a child care center. Soleri's reason for this is that mothers can take their children to work with them as they did when he was growing up in fascist Italy.

Part of the Dialogue: Work and Self-Actualization


This brings up the topic of work within an arcology designed for sheltering and sustaining conscious evolution. Abraham Maslow's research on self-actualization showed that the healthiest, most self-actualized people in a society are the ones who engage in chosen work by following an inward vocation or calling. One could say that these individuals are following their conscience, not only for self-interest, but for the purpose of planetary evolution. Barbara Hubbard writes, "Cocreation does not mean service at the sacrifice of self; it means service through the actualization of self. Self-actualization occurs when we find our vocations and express them meaningfully in the world" (112).

When it was attempted to build a team to bring together cyberspace and arcology in a program at Arcosanti called the Paradox Project, after it failed, I tried to find a job that matched up with my skills and talents and the Foundation’s work needs. After submitting a list of jobs that I would be willing to do from developing curriculum to cleaning up offices, the managers determined that none of the jobs I requested met their needs. I was told that if I wanted to stay at the project, then I would have to sacrifice what I felt I was called to do and take on a job in the bronze foundry casting Soleri bells. Only by sacrificing my life to the project and doing work that I did not want to do could I remain on the Arcosanit site. This felt like a slavery. Holding an Ed.D. degree, I felt that working in a foundry was a waste of my education and talent for both Arcosanti and myself. It also promised to be a more physically demanding occupation than it is wise to begin at my age.

That did not mean that I was unwilling to do my share and more of the various maintenance and menial tasks that are needed in the community. Since I am an educator/artist, however, I did not want those jobs to be my main employment on site. They are not the kinds of jobs that could lead to my own self-actualization.

Mary Hoadley, the Site Coordinator, indicated to me on several occasions that she had to make major sacrifices in her life to be part of the project. She made them because she felt that the sacrifice is needed to create something bigger than herself. But my question is: how can we ever reach the stage of conscious evolution if we fail to develop ourselves in the service of the other? Perhaps Hoadley's kind of thinking is necessary for autocratic, patriarchal forms of government, but how can it work in a democracy where each individual has a stake in the decision making process? Without self-knowledge and actualization of the self, democracy cannot properly exist! But in a self-sacrificing system, autocracy can thrive!

I was also told by one of the managers that the Arcosanti project could not financially afford to pay me for the work I wanted to do for the project or even could afford to have me stay on as a volunteer because the room I occupied at Arcosanti was needed for someone who could make money for them in their for-profit million dollar bell factory. Apparently, the non-profit part of the organization, the Cosanti Foundation, had no desire to put money into education or networking, jobs that I had requested. The present management system at Arcosanti expects people to sacrifice their selves to serve the project. Self-actualization is not seen as important to the project and people dispensable. The only visionary who matters at Arcosanti is the architect, Paolo Soleri. Everyone else must sacrifice his or her self to him.

Alas, I had to find out the hard way that even with Soleri's rhetoric of the "lean society" concept (society that is frugal and is not wasteful), the bottom line at Arcosanti, like elsewhere in Corporate America, is the dollar. Making money was more important to them than integrating educators. After becoming part of the Paradox team, I realized that I was not the kind of person Soleri was hoping to attract to the Paradox Program. He wasn't hoping to attract idealistic cyberians of high character who were interested in working toward building a network of arcologies in cyberscape and real life. Oh no! As the director of the program said to me on numerous occasions, Soleri's real reason for starting the Paradox Project was to attract the "1% of the 1%" who might be willing to give some of the millions of dollars he or she had made on a dot.com company to the Foundation. With that money, Soleri could build more of his project. Soleri's motivation for the Paradox Project was to attract money, not people with character. It seemed that no one but me felt that this was a deceptive mission for the Paradox Project.

Albert Camus wrote, "Ends do not justify means, but rather means justify means, and means have a way of becoming ends, so it is well to be scrupulous and uncompromising as to means." Why does Soleri need to contemplate the means to his end? Only then will he see that he could not have created the 2% of the Arcosanti project alone, the part that has been completed so far. He needed the help of 3,000 or so workshoppers. The trouble is he doesn't want to acknowledge them as stakeholders in his vision and his property because he fears democratic decision-making might corrupt his design plans. In Neil Leach's book, The Anaesthetics of Architecture, he states,

The most disturbing question, therefore, is not how architecture might be appropriated and exploited by various fascistic regimes, but how architectural culture might itself register a certain fascistic impulse. Here fascism must be understood not in its specific historical sense, but in the generic sense of the excessive use or abuse of any form of power, whether by the left or the right. Certainly, there are remarkable parallels to be drawn between images of dictators, such as Ceausescu or Hitler, inspecting architectural models, and those of architects themselves in similar situations (26-27).

Another escape tactic Soleri uses to avoid dialogues involving ethics at Arcosanti is to say that he is only creating a container, "form for form’s sake". Or is it "art for art's sake"? In either case, architecture becomes abstracted from its political and social content as if architecture was an art object and not a space for lived experience. Leach writes, "with aestheticization a social and political displacement occurs whereby ethical concerns are replaced by aesthetic ones. A political agenda is judged, therefore, not according to its intrinsic ethical status but according to the appeal of its outward appearance" (19). He writes that whenever politics becomes aestheticized, then the society is at risk of fascism.

Arcosanti would be a radically different place if Soleri chose to focus his attention on how to create social justice, democracy and a synergic culture within the Arcosanti organization rather than focusing his attention on his Omega Seed hypothesis. That hypothesis focuses on the End of Time, billions of years from now, while in his next breath Soleri preaches that the future does not exist. This is a way he can escape dealing with issues of the here and now such as the rights of workers at Arcosanti. Leach understands that in every architect there is a potential fascist. Those who have had personal dealings with Soleri know this statement seems to be true.

Even though Soleri says that he is trying to evolutionize civilization by erecting a radical architecture, by aestheticizing Arcosanti he is in fact playing the power game for post-modern architects who have no intention of looking at the underlying political foundations of their architecture. Leach continues, "As a consequence, ‘good design’ is often thought to have a significant social and political impact. By extension, what is considered ‘radical’ within the domain of architecture is likewise thought to be ‘radical’ from a socio-political perspective” (68). Leach warns us of the danger of thinking that a radical aesthetics parallels with a radical politics since in Soleri's case, a radical architecture is a mask for a reactionary politics. He writes, "Architectural culture will always be susceptible to a reactionary politics, not despite its façade of radicalism but precisely because of it, a façade that is no more than a façade of aesthetic radicalism" (69). To look at the foundations of architecture, Soleri would have to look at workers relationship to the property and develop an equitable solution to the ownership problem.

Had Soleri concerned himself with social justice, the culture at Arcosanti would be a more healthy, creative atmosphere. Instead, it is an atmosphere cursed with all the problems inherent in a drug and alcohol culture, the kind of culture that has plagued the Arcosanti project for decades. One thing the Arcosanti project proves, like in the mainstream American society that he says he is trying to overcome, an oppressed people turn to abusing drugs and alcohol to escape feelings of disempowerment, lack of meaning in their lives, and exploitation. Arcosanti is not about working for the future of humanity. It is about working for the vision of one man who is on top of the social pyramid just like the other cities of intoxication around the globe. Workers quite naturally become hedonistic and prone to apathy when they are not in control of their own destiny, mere pawns to the king/landlord.

Another reason of why it is imperative for a future dialogue to look at social and political factors when designing architecture is that in a totalitarian society there is little space provided for general assemblies and public gatherings since in autocratic societies such open spaces are not required for rulership. On the other hand, in democratic societies space is provided for general assemblies such as "town squares." Political forms are reflections of psychological states of mind that seek expression through architecture. Cities that value individual freedom and social intercourse will be reflected in the architectural foundations.

At Arcosanti, space is given to the performing arts. Open spaces such as the Vaults provide facilities for public assemblies to be conducted, yet the important decisions that affect the future of the project are made behind closed doors where the workers/residents do not have access. This certainly indicates that architecture, the container, is not responsible for political freedom. Even within an arcology designed to bring people together, what Soleri calls "the urban effect," if the government is autocratic and secretive, democratic spaces will not be used for open decision-making processes. The Arcosanti project proves architecture does not shape people, power relationships between humans do. In an interview "Space, Knowledge, Power," Michael Foucault looks at Bentham's panopticon, a building designed to be the perfect prison, to comment on the link between architecture and a politics of use. Leach writes, "All that architectural form can hope to achieve is to hinder or prevent a certain politics of use. Architectural form in itself cannot be liberating, although it can produce "positive effects" when the "liberating intentions of the architect" coincide with "the real practices of people in the exercise of their freedom" (32). The best architecture can do is to offer a space that invites a certain politics of use.

And finally another example of why it is important not to divide the social sphere, or what Teilhard de Chardin called the noosphere (the place where language and culture are created), from the physical sphere in the dialogue on how to create an arcology can be seen through our transportation needs. Cities that are designed for pedestrians are going to be compact, designed for mass transportation needs, not the needs of individuals using private transportation such as the automobile to travel miles and miles to get from here to there in urban sprawl. A society focused on supporting the use of the private automobile at the expense of developing mass transportation obviously values private wealth and classism rather than equal opportunity for all citizens including the young and the old to meet their transportation needs without causing stress to the global ecology. Addressing the transportation needs of everyone instead of the privileged class who can afford and have the skills needed to drive cars is a different psychological state of mind than only thinking about the needs of the few.

Even though the official word at Arcosanti is that they are trying to create the world's first car-free city, private cars are still a necessity for residents of Arcosanti. Since there is no community car that residents can share, people without cars are at the mercy of those with cars to give them rides off site. Those with cars are a privileged class at Arcosanti and those without cars feel trapped on site. This is not the way to create a lean society model when some people on site have one, two, and even seven cars, and other people have no access to automobiles. Those who are living the leanest lifestyle of not owning a car are at a disadvantage to those who have the power of private automobile transportation.

Soleri, of course, is one of the car owners. He does not concern himself with the lives those without cars who have difficulty finding rides off site to visit the doctor for example. His response has been that they are a poor community. Other site managers have told me that in the past they have had communal cars, but the people who used them did not know how to take care of them and so their need for a communal car was suspended. Soleri needs a private car to commute back and forth to his single family house in Phoenix where he lives alone at his Consanti Foundation compound. At Arcosanti there are no resources provided to train people to learn to value communal property. So it is understandable why communal property is not taken care of when workshoppers come to the project from the mainstream society.

Soleri has chosen not to take a serious look at the psychological space within an arcology. After the arcology is built, he says, it will be up to the people who live there to decide on their governance and economic structure. What he fails to acknowledge is that certain political, cultural, and economic forces are responsible for building the arcology in the first place and it is those powers that will determine the social architecture within the container of an arcology. Onsite coordinator Tomiaki Tamura said to me that Soleri's "lean society" concept is pure music (the social architecture). So who is Soleri trying to fool by telling us he is only building the instrument (the architecture)?


Politics of Arcology

Even though Soleri says that arcology cannot exist without "the lean society model" he also has stated that any sort of governance structure could work within an arcology: totalitarianism, fascism, capitalism, socialism, communism, democracy or autocracy, etc. In his worldview, political, and economic frameworks are secondary to building the architectural foundation. As the master architect of Arcosanti, he feels it is not his place to discriminate or make ethical judgments about political structures. For him the container is apolitical. Soleri's mentor, Le Corbusier, felt the same way and would have worked for the Nazis if they had given him the chance to build his "Radiant City." Jonathan Barnett writes in The Elusive City: Five Centuries of Design, Ambition and Miscalculation,

Le Corbusier himself made no secret of his belief that city design required an autocratic government that would put someone like himself in charge of all new building. He even made a little sketch of a government decree that he believed should put the implementation of the Voisin Plan in motion. For Le Corbusier, power was more important than ideology. He was a member of the proto-fascist Redressement Francais during the 1920s, sought to work for the Soviets, visited Italy and wrote favorably of Mussolini, and then spent eighteen months after the German occupation in 1941 trying to persuade the Nazi-sponsored Vichy government of France to implement his plan for Algiers. (115)

Legend has it that in the '70s Soleri went to visit the Shah of Iran in hopes of building an arcology for him. He did not get to talk with the Shah directly, but with his sister. The final outcome of the meeting was they were not interested in the arcology idea because people living so close together in an arcology could lead to more open communication. My purpose here is to point out that if given the chance to build an arcology, Soleri would not care if his client is a notorious human rights abuser the world over.

Clearly there are ethics intrinsic to architecture that determine if the culture is one based on individual liberties and social creativity or one that it based on social conformity and mental slavery. It is ironic that Soleri invented the word, "esthe-quity" to describe the need to combine the word aesthesis and equity as a founding principle of arcology. In order to create a society based on "esthe-quity," then we have to think in terms of equity and how to redistribute power and wealth fairly in order to create a beautifully ordered arcology, one where love and work are united. These are major themes running through 2,000 years of experiments in communal living. Soleri rejects such thinking. He treats communal studies as irrelevent to the Arcosanti project! For him, people don't count. Pouring concrete is what counts.

Since Soleri is only concerned with building a container, he doesn't deal with the people part of the Arcosanti design such as sound proofing, heat insulation, sustainable energy sources, handicap access, being able to grow enough food for the community, child safe spaces, or the various housing needs of people. Since he only sees the place as a construction site, I do not think he cares if the café is infested with coach roaches or that the vegetables shipped into the Arcosanti café are conventionally grown with pesticides from California. Since he does not live at Arcosanti full time, it does not bother him that his architecture is too cold in the weather and too hot in the summer, or that the "cubes" provided for the workers are substandard housing. He has a good view from is apartment window of "Camp," the workshopper shanty town (the serfs outside the walls of the castle), all the while preaching to the workers at his "School of Thought" sessions about his ideas of equity that will happen at the time of the Big Crunch billions of years from now. Leach explains Soleri’s attitude, "Utopian architectural visions came to be seen as abstract aesthetic experiments of an architectural elite out of touch not only with the taste but also, more importantly, with the practical needs of the populace" (11). Even though Soleri does not want his arcology theory or Arcosanti to be view as a utopian experiment, nevertheless, he is guilty of building such a structure.

By ignoring the function of community and cocreative public space within his pedestrian city model, Soleri fails to address the role community and public space plays in the design process. This leads to a distorted view of reality as if the autocratic father architect can know all and be all to the people, never asking the people what they need. Arcosanti has become part of what cultural critics call "architecture of spectacle" because what it is designed for is not people, but to create an image. Leach writes,

The sensory stimulation induced by these images may have a narcotic effect that diminishes social and political awareness, leaving architects cosseted within their aesthetic cocoons, remote from the actual concerns of everyday life. In the intoxicating world of the image, it is argued, that aesthetics of architecture threaten to become the anaesthetics of architecture. The intoxication of the aesthetic leads to an aesthetics of intoxication, and a consequent lowering of critical awareness (viii).

Arcosanti, then, becomes as unreal a living space for the general populace as living at Disneyland would be. For tourists there is no way that they can see a way that they can participate in the project other than through virtual means of donating money. The best they can do is to take a one hour tour and during that time realize that Arcosanti is really not a viable ideal image. Arcosanti becomes part of the make-believe world of the culture of consumption rather than a real alternative. There is no way Arcosanti allows for tourists to think in terms of selling their houses to move into an “ecological architecture” that supports a green lifestyle. Because Arcosanti is not a sustainable community nor does it aspire to be one. Fritjof Capra writes in his book, The Web of Life, “This, in a nutshell, is the great challenge of our time: to create sustainable communities” (6).

Unfortunately for Arcosanti and for the world, spectacle architecture is built upon the same one-sided top-down dysfunctional hierarchy as in the old civilization that doesn't allow for individual grass-roots democratic "decentralization" of power that is supportive and encourages the cocreative progress outlined in Hubbard's book. It makes arcology an objective model that has no subjective core.

Even though Soleri writes about the "internalization of arcology," in practice he ignores the subjective core of the project, leaving it without a balance between the internal and the external, the psychological and the physical, the individual and the universal, the spiritual and the material, the form and the content, the community and the architecture. This division between the mind and the matter, etc., is a false duality that results in us to not be able to think in holistic terms vital to being able to build an evolutionary arcology. An evolutionary architecture needs an evolutionary social theory to inspire people to want to participate in cocreating a radically new lifestyle. Hubbard states, "It is a vision of the birth of a universal species, a quantum jump from Homo sapiens to Homo 'universalis,' from the self-conscious human to the cosmic conscious, cocreative human"(54). This quantum transformation in consciousness requires a new form to house ourselves in, aligning ourselves in a more wholesome relationship with nature. Hence, among the "cultural creatives" there is a psychological necessity for constructing an arcology to accommodate conscious evolution.

 



The Oppression of Synergic Power at Arcosanti

I am not faulting Soleri for his lack of subjective understanding. To think that one man can create both a social architecture and a physical architecture for a new paradigm is too much to ask of one human being. To build a project on the level of an arcology, collective sense of reality is necessary. So what is needed to evolve our physical structures is not autocratic domination but synergic power dynamics.

What I mean by synergic power is the "power to use with people, not over or against them." In their book Synergic Power beyond Domination and Permissiveness, James H. and Marge Craig define the concept as, "By synergic power we mean: the capacity of an individual or group to increase the satisfactions of all participants by intentionally generating increased energy and creativity, all of which is used to co-create a more rewarding present and future" (62). They say that synergy occurs when unlike elements work together to create "desirable results unobtainable from any combination of independent efforts" (62). This does not mean that we would not have leaders, only that a leader "shares both his [sic] vision and his [sic] knowledge, when he [sic] encourages a free and open sharing among his [sic] fellows of their knowledge and desires, and guides a synthesis of all these toward creating and carrying out jointly-devised programs" (62). Hubbard has a similar idea, "For in the process of coming together to solve problems, we ourselves are changed, our genius codes join, and something greater than ourselves emerges from our union with other kindred souls" (153). Examples of synergic power are rare in human history. But so is creating a new archetype in architecture!

Throughout history we see the use of what these authors call directive power. Directive power is used to increase the satisfaction of the individual by intentionally shaping and using the behavior of others to advance his interests. Directive power uses coercion and manipulates people to act against their better judgment. They act against their own interests and the interests of others. It dehumanizes people by making them oblivious to the fact that they are responsible for their own actions. In such a system, external forces become where one places accountability for one's actions, not within themselves. In directive power, one might say, "I was only following orders," to justify acts of oppression, genocide, and exploiting the workers around the world for the wealth of the few. Directive power is used to plan and enact wars.

To create and maintain peace requires synergy through "sharing power, exchanging ideas, expressing concern for each other's need, and jointly devising solutions that answer to the needs of all." (62) James H. and Marge Craig asks this extremely important question, "Does the human species have the capacity to build communities and societies that promote the actualization of all their members' human potential? After all, if people are inherently incapable of effectively working together without strong directive leadership there's little point in looking toward synergic power to humanize society, and we should probably direct our efforts toward transferring the control of society and the world from exploitive oligarchies to the most benevolent despots we can find or can develop" (91). The authors admit that for synergic enlightenment to be demonstrable we have to "design and build a caring community or society fit for fully evolved humans" (84). Isn't this really what Arcosanti is all about?

By not allowing the arcology idea to join with ideas resonating the same quality and ability to move humanity in a life affirming direction, that is, hauling the phenomena of synergic power--Soleri has built a moat around Arcosanti. It becomes a gated community where he attempts to control thought. Words such as "spirit," "mind," "utopia," "future," are seen as being part of an animistic world view and are scorned by the founder and his followers as delusional. The effects of this thinking are that life becomes nothing but science, chemistry in our brains making constantly changing geometric patterns.

Seeing life in terms of material science fits right into the current "metaparadigm." Peter Russell, author of the Global Brain Awakes writes in his Internet slideshow, "Science, Consciousness and God," "the real world is the material world. Space, time and matter are primary." Metaparadigms are the paradigms behind the paradigms. In Russell's way of thinking the new metaparadigm states that "consciousness is as real and fundamental as space, time and matter." Everything we know is "in the mind." Or, as it was written in the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, "Matter is derived from mind, not mind from matter." Or, as my mentor and friend, Dame Phyllis Rodin, says, "We are not the body. We are in a body."

In Soleri’s approach there is no mind or spirit. There is only brain. Soleri fails to comprehend the words of Capra when he writes, “Ultimately, deep ecological awareness is spiritual or religious awareness. When the concept of the human spirit is understood as a mode of consciousness in which the individual feels a sense of belonging, of connectedness, to the cosmos as a whole, it becomes clear than ecological awareness is spiritual in its deepest essence. (7). Because of this intellectual invisible gate that Soleri has mentally constructed, Arcosanti in effect becomes a Paolo cult. Because of the autocratic structure, it is very difficult for new ideas to join his own. The net result is that Arcosanti has changed little in twenty years, crumbling apart before it has a chance to be completed. It has become more on the lines of a Paolo mansion, rather than the collective effort a city-making project demands.

What I do fault Soleri for is not being able to listen to people who have other insights into the theory of arcology. Does he think that since he coined the word of “arcology,” he is the sole owner of the idea, his intellectual property, especially since the ideas of high density population surrounded by recreational or agricultural land--the essence of the arcology concept-- can be witnessed in the thousand year old Native American ruins at such places as Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle, just down the highway from Arcosanti? Perhaps it is a problem with ego. He is stuck in the 20th Century model of the isolated genius working to save the human species alone in an alienated world.


Collective Unconsciousness

Even though the ideas were crystallize in a modern context through Soleri’s contribution to architecture, arcology is part of what Carl Jung calls the collective unconsciousness, that is, archetypes we all share and collectively need to be conscious of in order for the sustainable city-making process to emerge. According to Hubbard, "We now know that a plan of action or program is encoded in the genes of every living organism that guides it from conception through gestation, birth, maturation, and death. Planet Earth is a living system. Is it not possible, then, that there is a prepatterned (but not a predetermined) pattern or tendency, an encoded design for planetary evolution just as there is for biological evolution?” (18) What I am suggesting is that arcology is such a prepattern belonging to all the parts that make up the whole. We all have a stake in arcology, every person, plant and animal in the world. The economic and social structures of architectural experiments should reflect our stake, but they do not.

Even in science the model of one individual genius making a revolutionary break through doesn't work in a world where a combination of knowledge is required in order to understand the way the universe works. Micho Kaku writes in his book Visions: How Science will Revolutionize the 21st Century, "Of course, no one person can invent the future. There is simply too much accumulated knowledge; there are too many possibilities and too many specializations. In fact, most predictions of the future have floundered because they have reflected the eccentric, often narrow viewpoints of a single individual" (ix). In order to comprehend universal patterns central to constructing an evolutionary architecture, we must recognize relationships with our intellectual peers who are working in different disciplines within a similar value system. It also means being able to bond with them out of the love for the beauty of recombination. As they say, "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

No man or woman has the power to pull the whole together alone which is the basic idea behind my "two as one world philosophy" concept. Hubbard also sees the need for comprehending a greater unifying force, what she terms "suprasex." She explains, "The next stage of sexuality, suprasex, occurs when our genius is aroused and we desire to join our genius to cocreate. Suprasexual passion increases in the convergence zone. We are vocationally aroused at the level of our genius. Instead of joining our genes to have a child, we join our genius to give birth to our full potential selves and to work that expresses our combined love.... Brilliant ideas are triggered by the presence of others who reinforce our own potential" (156). She goes on to use another new word, "telerotics". This word is a synthesis of telos, the study of the end and eros, passionate love. She concludes, "In conscious evolution we become "telerotic" in love with the fulfillment of the potential of the whole" (93).

Since we are embodied consciousness, forming community with like-minded visionary thinkers is paramount to our survival. This is a task Soleri has had difficulty doing even though he has created the physical space in order to do so. Of course, Soleri would have to share power and collaborate on strategies for our cultural renewal with individuals who are also working on the development of the arcology theory and practice. In the autocratic model that Soleri has embedded himself in for over 30 years, it seems like an impossible task for him to love and honor the gifts others bring to the arcology project. But Hubbard's writing gives us hope. She prophesies,

When we understand our evolutionary potential, however, and awaken to our emerging social, spiritual, and scientific capacities to fulfill an evolutionary agenda, new political leadership will cocreate and consciously choose the meme [Meme is a word coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene. He defines a meme as a cultural equivalent of a gene. Like genes memes are passed from one generation to another to contribute to the health of the organism. Memes are cultural ideas or archetypes that pass from one generation to the next.] needed to empower it. Society will be activated with excitement and hope as creative possibilities call forth the potential of millions.

This meme is arcology. It will take enlightened people to move us into the direction of building a network of arcologies on Earth and in Outer Space energized by a world-energy grid of renewable power. So what is stopping the genius in Soleri from being able to bond with people who can help him manifest the dream of arcology? Why is the great man Soleri having such difficultly engaging in conscious evolution?


Memes and the Poetics of Love

After trying to personally engage with Soleri on an idea level for a year and a half and having studied his architecture and philosophy, I feel the problem is sexual discrimination at the meme level. The poetics of Soleri's thinking is that we are moving towards what he calls the “Omega Seed” at the end of time. The Omega Seed is the implosion of the universe into a point. According to the Arcosanti Web site, it is defined as “the ultimate encapsulation of all the "information-learning" generated by the evolutionary development.” But when I said to him that if there is an Omega Seed at the end of time, then there has got to be an Alpha Ovum at the new beginning, Soleri harshly rejected that idea by saying that all I thought about was sex and told me that I had no future with the project which led to my termination. By suggesting the possibility of an “Alpha Ovum” I wasn’t trying to make a sexual advance towards Soleri. What I was suggesting is that poetically a seed needs an ovum; in other words, women have a crucial role to play in the building of a new cosmology.

 

All that I was able to conclude from this rejection was that what Soleri fears most is the power of women to create birth to a collective vision of arcology. In surpasexual relationships, the goal is to join memes. Cultural evolution deals with the birth of ideas that are then made visible through the Noosphere. (Noosphere is a word coin by Teilhard De Chardin taken from the Greek “noo” for mind. He wrote that it is "the living unity of a single tissue," a thinking membrane, a sphere around the planet that contains our collective thoughts and experiences. Even though the Noosphere is part of our intelligence and has been with us since the dawn of conscious reflection, the invention of the Internet and electronic communications has given us a visual place to see our virtual expressions within the Noosphere.)

To engage in a paradigmatic birth process that conscious evolution requires, means that Soleri could not cling to his position as the autocrat over the arcology project since it takes more than one for conception to take place. Women's role in the cultural birth process, to put it bluntly, is essential. In essence, we have to acknowledge the need for a suprasex model and the partnerships that arise through the joining together of memes for greater good of the project. But in order to do this, he would have to surrender his male superiority and embrace the invisible powers of teleros, the bond that might be the grand unifying theory of arcology.

This is difficult for Soleri to do since he junks the feminist movement elevating women to be engaged with society on equal positions with men. After all, in his authoritarian way of thinking, what woman could possibly be equal to, or even rise above, his creative genius? Soleri would benefit by contemplating the following quote by Walter and Lao Russell from their book, The World Crisis: Its Explanation and Solution,

Whatever is created, whether mineral, vegetable or animal, is given its existence by the power extended to it by equal interchange between the equal male and female halves of Creation. Because of the failure of science to recognize this vital, basic principle of existence, so obvious in Nature everywhere, and so dynamically manifested in the electric current, the world has had to pay a dreadful price. The chemist can plainly see this male and female interplay in the perfect cube which results from the balanced matter of sodium and chlorine and in the imperfect cube distortions which are the result of unbalanced matings, such as sodium with bromine, iodine or fluorine.

Perhaps the male egoism would not allow the male to promulgate this idea of equality. It had to await the inner vision of a woman whose life was dedicated to the correction of this tragic unbalance, which is now causing the collapse of man-made civilization" (106).

During one of our weekly "School of Thought" sessions, I asked Soleri if he had a creative partnership with his now deceased wife Colly. His answer was that she was not interested in his architectural ideas, did not help him in formulating his notions of arcology and his philosophy of the Omega Seed. She did support him by being his helpmate, providing money from her inheritance to build his project, and she raised his children along with doing his house and bookkeeping. He said that what she wanted was to be a traditional wife. Apparently, he did not have the transformative, cocreative type marriage that the Russells were talking about when they wrote,

Masculinity cannot become completely exalted without balancing it with femininity. Nature's law demands the union of equal and opposite mates in all things-spiritual, mental and physical-in order to consummate her ideas of Creation.... Until this world-home is equally motivated by man and woman it will be unbalanced in the measure of that inequality”(138).

Even though Soleri was able to procreate with his wife he seems to have been unable to cocreate with her in order to form the social architecture of sexual equality necessary for providing wise and balanced guidance to make Arcosanti all that it could be as a model of an alternative way of life.


Lessons Learned

One of the most important lessons I learned while living at Arcosanti is that the physical structure can only go so far in making a better environment. The way people think and their attitudes towards each other are the essential factors in creating a healthy and peaceful environment where people are encouraged to work on ideas that they love that contributes to our understanding of the whole.


Architecture is created for people's happiness and survival--a way to bring the whole together--not the other way around. Also, I realized that without a new political power base that a partnership society provides, an evolutionary architecture is not going to generate the massive labor and resources required to produce major building projects such as building an arcology demands.

My goal here is to reinforce and impress on readers the idea that sexual politics and architecture are integrally connected. In order to address our pressing social and environmental problems caused by human habitat and its artificial "separation" from the ecology, I want to address it coming from an ecofeminist perspective because pulling together the physical and the psychological space is a project involving a number of different disciplines working in unison. Even though I feel that addressing the problem of developing an alternative economic model based on workers cooperatives is critical to its success, it is not where my expertise lies. Creating an arconomics (arcology and economics) is someone else's cosmic job, even though I feel the knowledge that I bring forth to the dialogue-the importance of building sustainable loving relationships, the essence of community development--is essential to build a sustainable economy. Let’s call it, education in action or "actucation," the embodiment of changing thought patterns in an arcological form. Every cell within the individual's body comes aware of itself on the microcosmic and macrocosmic scales, understanding its place within the ever-changing whole of an arcology.


Sexual Architecture within an Arcology

My task, then, is to focus on the fundamental problem, sexual division and the need to create a partnership society (the two as one world philosophy) as the foundation of the arcology model. Looking at love and family relationships, how they are changing in the 21st Century, we must ask: what kind of architectural structure is needed to support loving relationships of all kinds? To answer this question we must visualize and enact a society of sexual balance within an arcological blueprint, one that honors equality and difference as the core principle.

The basic trouble with our civilization is the inequality of women and men in decision-making positions and world-affairs. As in Soleri's case, he believes that he can create an arcology without the equal contribution of women in the creative idea process. This is impossible in nature because it violates the principle of Cocreation. As long as City in the Image of Man goes unchallenged and the autocrat is the sole master of Arcosanti, it will be a city of unhappiness, void of the balance of love, a society at war with itself. Walter and Lao Russell write,

When men and women learn that secret of power which lies in balanced interchange in all things between the male and female power-force of the universe, they will find that this equal interchange is the love-principle upon which the universe is founded. They will also find that their power multiplies in the measure in which they have discovered it. In this discovery also lies the secret of happiness, for happiness cannot be acquired like a commodity, purchase or otherwise. Happiness, peace and love are eternally existent and can be acquired by mankind [sic] in one way only, and that one way is by balanced matings in every transaction of life" (111).

Building a civilization on the foundation of love and sexual equality moves us beyond the American Dream house of the patriarchal family into the realization of one-whole-world family living in the communalism of arcology. As civilization begins the miniaturization process and mutates into arcology, the conquest and domination model of development no longer is relevant. Introspection and developing the capacities of the character and soul are needed in the new world of arcologies. We move from a civilization into what Kettner calls a "soulization," a world in which wo/man's highest potentials are liberated as the collective soul becomes aware of itself. Such a world is based on what Wulf Zendik, founder of the Zendik Farm community, another group experimenting with communal living, calls "The Genius Principle." Wulf Zendik explains the principle as,

When a person is made aware of or brought together with this particular task, craft or art, she or he has then found a world which may be performed more efficiently than any other--a work at which they can take great joy and pride and of which that person is potentially a genius, a natural genius...a society consisting of such people, people who are geniuses in their individual contributions, much grow into a more efficient and powerful, a Creative Society---an instructive and inspiring example to the world-a genius society. This is our objective at Zendik Farm.

But at Arcosanti, Soleri has not found the key to freeing the creativity of people. At his place, there is only room for one genius, himself. Arol Zendik, Wulf’s wife writes, "The function of a healthy society is to find out what people love to do. We give people the opportunity to find and pursue their interests and when they do, these geniuses appear that were there all the time, but hidden." At Arcosanti, no effort is put into finding out what residents love to do, what their past education and training is, or what skills and knowledge they bring to the project. Most of the workshoppers who come to Arcosanti have a deep interest in working on a prototype city that has the potential to live in a more harmonious way with nature, but what they find out is that the management team does not want to listen to them as to how they feel that can best contribute to the movement towards building a world of arcologies.

The move from the external power of civilization towards the inner or the authentic power of a “soulization” can be seen in Gary Zukav book, The Seat of the Soul. He says that we are evolving from a five-sensory personality to a multi-sensory personality. Five-sensory personality believes the Judeo-Christian worldview that we have only one lifetime to participate in the process of evolution and that the only type of power that exists is material, external or directive power. In this worldview, it is believed that the self cannot exist outside one's lifetime, not beyond that lifetime. This worldview leads to the "survival of the fittest" mentality that defines the most evolved organism as the one who is on top of the food chain, who can "ensure its own survival" and able to "serve its self-preservation" (21). Zukav calls for us to comprehend a deeper understanding of evolution. The truly evolved organism understands that we are networks of interrelationships of organisms, symbiotically living in self-organizing ways. This deeper understanding of our self and the environment leads to not living for only our physical survival but for our planetary survival, that is, for the survival of others.

The multi-sensory personality realizes that the soul can exist outside of time. This idea compliments the idea of the Buddhist Bodhisattvas (awakening warriors) who out of love and compassion "has attained a realization of Bodhicitta, a mental state characterized by the spontaneous and genuine aspiration to attain full enlightenment in order to be of benefit to all beings." They are reborn into the human species until there is planetary salvation, for since we are organic creatures without the all, that is, the biosphere, the one cannot be saved since human beings a mere part of the web of life. Joanna Macy writes in The World as Self, the World as Lover,

The awakening to our true self is the awakening to that entirely, breaking out of the prison-self of separated ego. The one who perceives this is the bodhisattva-and we are all bodhisattvas because we are all capable of experiencing that-it is our true nature. We are profoundly interconnected and therefore we are able to recognize and act upon our deep, intricate, and intimate inter-existence with each other and all beings. That true nature of ours is already present in our pain for the world. When we turn our eyes away from that homeless figure, are we indifferent or is the pain of seeing him or her too great? Do not be easily duped about the apparent indifference of those around you (191).

Multi-sensory individuals realize both the inner and outer discoveries of science that there are both physical and nonphysical dynamics at work in the Multiverse. But the five-sensory person can only see external power, as in Soleri's case, even though the idea of arcology using the formula of what David Suzuki in his book, The Sacred Balance, calls the four "R's"-- reduce, reuse, recycle and redesign-- is a multi-sensory concept because designing a new architectural foundation requires looking towards building a foundation for generations of come. One could call acts of long-term cocreation living for the future in the here and now.

As multi-sensory personalities, Zukav writes that we are moving into an age of spiritual partnerships what he defines as people coming together with the purpose of helping equals achieve spiritual growth. He says that we are moving away from the archetype of traditional marriage where coupling is based on assisting each other on the physical survival level, such as to obtain shelter, food and water, energy, reproduction and protection-marriages that "reflects the perception of power as external" to a world where the archetypes of marriages reflect an inner necessary to combine memes in acts of cocreation. Obtaining material wealth does not become the glue of marriages, but spiritual growth toward conscious evolution is the genuine bond between lovers.

The sad fact is Soleri rejects the very knowledge that could have the authentic power to move us into a world of arcologies. Zukav writes, "Communities, nations and cultures-all of our collective creations-are built upon the values and perceptions of the five-sensory personality, the values they are reflected by the archetype of marriage" (162). Until Soleri is reborn into a multi-sensory perspective in order to find union with his cocreative soulmate(s), I don't think he will have the knowledge as to how to complete the Arcosanti project with integrity, sacred love, and personal freedom as its core. Lao Russell writes,

If women alone controlled all the institutions of civilization, as man now controls them the resultant effeminate world would be as chaotic in sentimental impracticability as it now is in the boomerang effects caused by masculine ego.

I do not mean that every institution or business should be staffed equally with men and women, but I do mean that the feminine influence should not only be equal in effect but equal in authority. The wife of the President of the United States should have the same authority vested in her as is vested in her husband, instead of being limited to influencing him in an advisory capacity without authority. If husband and wife authority is not feasible, then there should be two presidents, man and woman, of equal authority who must agree as one, as they do in their own homes (134).

Presently, the Consanti Foundation has one president, Paolo Soleri. No one is equal to his word. When his wife was alive, her position in the organization was vice-president. Being the only woman involved with the Paradox Project for more than a year, I watched the demise of the program run by males who I felt never really listened to my ideas. I experienced them excusing me from important meetings and dialogues, not returning my emails, and finally pushing me out of Paradox Project that I was the onsite coordinator. I have witnessed the male hierarchy at Arcosanti and how it attempted to crush all the goodness and evolutionary ideas I brought to the project.

Whatever one calls this new bond of union that is needed to heal the Arcosanti project, it is clear that new terms are necessary to describe the revolutionary social structures on our evolutionary cultural horizon. But to succeed in making this quantum transformation in human relationships, arcology is indispensable. The struggle to free eros from five centuries of authoritarian architecture is indeed a grand goal that must be accomplish if we want to create a sustainable, synergic lifestyle. But I dare say that this goal cannot be accomplished without the fusion of a social and physical architecture--the yin and yang of life--a holistic approach to cultural evolution that could finally make Arcosanti a good place to live. Is there any other way to end 5,000 years of authoritarian architecture and transform Gaia other than through the power of true love?

 
 




 
 
Human Extinction or Lovolution?