Paolo Soleri, who died last month at 93, transformed the way people imagine cities of the future. You've probably seen some of his concepts without realizing it. He even built an experimental city in Arizona, called Arcosanti. We've got a gallery of his drawings and designs, some of which have never been online before.

With his Arcosanti workshops and classes, Soleri popularized the idea of "arcology," a cross between architecture and ecology. The idea was that cities should reflect both human aspirations as well as the shape and needs of the Earth's environment. Often, like the image you see above, he imagined arcologies would be partly underground, or built into natural geological features of the landscape.


His designs are intended to be flexible, sustainable and beautiful; they've influenced many urban planners, as well as artists and concept designers. If some of these images look familiar to you, it's because Soleri's visions became synonymous with "futuristic cities" — you see references to his work a lot in 1970s science fiction movies.

According to a release from Arcosanti:

Soleri’s exhibition in 1970 at the Corcoran Museum in Washington DC – and the concurrent publication of his landmark book, City in the Image of Man – changed forever the global conversation about urban planning on our living planet. His term, “Arcology” joining the words architecture and ecology to represent one whole system of understanding human life on the earth is meant to serve as the basis for that conversation.

Paolo Soleri’s ideas are embodied on the ground in the flowing forms of his architectural workshop Cosanti in Paradise Valley, (now an Arizona Historic Landmark) and in the continuing construction at Arcosanti, the urban laboratory on the high desert in central Arizona. There, to date over 7,000 students have participated in its construction. More than 50,000 architecture enthusiasts visit the site each year.

Soleri continued questioning and creating until his death. The theme of his last project, a series of collages entitled “Then and Now”, juxtaposed his own signature forms with illustrations of life from antiquity. In this project Paolo Soleri attempted to capture the critical notion that we are constantly building on the past, on the work of countless generations that have preceded us on the earth. Our own work - and Soleri’s work especially - put into this context, might be a seed that takes many more generations to mature and complete.

In Soleri's visions below, you can see his ideas taking shape and flowering into Arcosanti. He tries to reflect the history of how humans have built cities in the Americas, but always looks to the future. One day, our carbon-negative cities may look like arcologies. Or maybe they will be radically different — a transformation which is exactly the kind of thing Soleri would have loved.

Learn more about Soleri's work by visiting the Arcosanti website — or by visiting Arcosanti itself, which is just 100 km north of Phoenix, Arizona.

MESA CITY - Higher Learning Complex.
Photo Credit: Cosanti Foundation - Ivan Pintar

Photo Credit: Cosanti Foundation

Photo Credit: Cosanti Foundation

Image Credit: Cosanti Foundation

Image Credit: Cosanti Foundation

BABEL IID Arcology
Photo credit: Cosanti Foundation

Photo credit: Cosanti Foundation

Photo Credit: Ivan Pintar

INDIA VILLAGE. 2 Suns Arcology
Photo Credit: Cosanti Foundation

Original sketch of the “HYPERBUILDING”
Photo Credit: Cosanti Foundation

Original sketch of the “HYPERBUILDING”
Photo Credit: Cosanti Foundation

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Photo Credit: Tomiaki Tamura

3D rendering - Youngsoo Kim

LEAN LINEAR CITY connected to the larger node of NUDGING SPACE Arcology.
3D rendering: Youngsoo Kim

3D Rendering: YoungSoo Kim

3D Rendering: Tomiaki Tamura

ARCOSANTI 5000 model
Photo Credit: Michael E. Brown

ARCOSANTI 5000 Section
Photo Credit: Jeff Manta