A Tale of Two Santis

What can I say? Domes, big windows, ceramics, ambient sound,and large geometric elements in modern architecture really do it for me! I am utterly and completely unapologetic about this.

For these undeniable aspects of my personality and aesthetic, I have wanted to go to Arcosanti for many years. I think I can trace it back to a make-out session freshman year at Pratt with an architecture student who played me Gil Scott-Heron (I think it was this one) and had an Arcology poster on the wall of his dorm room that made the clumsy kisses hard to concentrate on with my full and undivided attention. ANYWAY, last year, I went down an internet travel worm hole and was delighted to learn that you can actually STAY at Arcosanti in some luxe accommodation called the Sky Suite for a hundred bucks (breakfast included). So similar to my plan-waaaay-ahead-New-Yorkerness on this particular adventure, I called about a month and a half in advance to secure said Sky Suite and finally make this pilgrimage happen a few days shy of my birthday.

I expected to find soft-spoken, affable hippy potters and bronze workers and Paolo Soleri enthusiasts dripping from the eaves, or in the worst case scenario, someone who was actually excited about showing a group of interested people around. What I found instead was a beautiful shell of what was inhabited by a bunch of people who seemed completely cold and disassociated. I guess I had hoped that there would be a greater sense of stewardship for the place. At one point in the tour, my friend asked a perfectly legitimate question about the origin of the line drawings that are carved on the sides of the ubiquitous bells that hang everywhere. Our tour guide responded “the drawings are inspired by the artists’ mind.” 

Even though he said he had been giving the tour for years he didn’t know basic facts like when construction began or details about Paolo Soleri. At one point, it became obvious that he didn’t want to take us down to the bottom level of the site, so he just weakly gestured towards it and moved us in a different direction. As my friend and I exchanged “are you kidding me?! this guy is such a clown!” glances through the remainder of the tour, we became more and more apprehensive about staying. We had trouble finding where the Sky Suite actually was and asked a child playing in the dirt. Even he was cold and disassociated. I started to hear the Unsolved Mystery narrator’s voice in my mind telling the story of two architecture enthusiasts who’s little vacation to Arizona went horribly wrong, so we returned the keys, drove back to Phoenix in the pink sky, and gleefully checked into the Biltmore just in time for some complementary Chardonnay and salted peanuts.

I really wanted to pick up some Soleri bells for some special people in my life, so Simone and I stopped off at the Cosanti Foundation on the way to the airport the next morning and our “santi frowns” were turned upside down. Unlike its sibling, Cosanti is extremely well-maintained and staffed by warm people who are excited to tell you about Paolo Soleri and the history of the space.

Moral of this tale:

1. Always trust your instincts, especially when they are telling you something is off.

2. Visit Arcosanti but don’t stay there and if you have a few spare million lying around, have I got a restoration project for you! Someone needs to take the bull by the horns with this place.

3. Enjoy yourself immensely at Cosanti and just revel in the sound of those bells in a big beautiful dome.

til there was you….xx.sk

One Comment

  • Some times, the crap trips tell us more about the world that the good ones.

    Also, we’re going to Portmerion.

    No hippy kids playing in dirt.*

    But there is a man that holds the title for “Most social awkward expert on obscure 60s television programs that also runs a gift shop”.

    It’s also ace.


    * Side thought: there’s a rich vein of hypocrisy the hippy canon that says “kids should be free to play unsupervised” which pretty much means “we can ignore them entirely”


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