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|Petrich Shovels Dirt for Paolo Soleri
by Anne Pendergrass
November 9, 1973
Last summer Dean Petrich paid over $300 for the privilege of shoveling dirt for nine weeks. Petrich, Willamette's Guest-in-Residence, from December 2 through 4, commented, "I drove to the end of a rutted road in the Arizona desert and lived with insects and cacti."
The question that comes immediately to mind is: Why? "Because there is a fifty-four-year-old man who has an idea," is the answer.
The man, Paolo Soleri, an Italian architect who has been living in ARizona since the early fifties, "felt very uncomfortable and dissatisfied with the spread-out, wastefu, disorganized lay-outs of cities and suburbs around him," explained Petrich. "Through a gradual process, his thinking ultimately evolved into a concept which he called "arcology" -- architecture and ecology combined, in which the city is integrated as an organism in its surrounding environment," he continued.
Dean Petrich and a hundred other people spent their summers helping Soleri build the city of his dreams, Arcosanti. Construction on the city began last year.
Soleri believes the more develope an organism is, the more compact and complex it is. The advantage that a city has over the coutnry is that it is more compact, facilitating quicker access to needs, and supplying more in less space. Petrich explained that Soleri sees the next step in the evolution of the city as condensing even more, but this time including the third dimension of going upward rather than outward. "Go to the library and look up his book Arcology: The City in the Image of Man (it's on reserve) and look at some of his designs. I agree with him," emphasized Petrich.
Although many architects have designed megastructures on paper and in models, Soleri is the only person in the world who is actually building one. Since the idea is too far in the future for most big industries to offer funding, Soleri is paying for the construction entirely with donations and volunteer labor, such as Petrich donated this summer.
"While I was there I learned a great deal about construction, architecture, urban planning, art and philosophy. My only regret is that more people don't know anything about what is occurring on the mesa where Soleri's dream is coming true," concluded Petrich.
Petrich has sent to the Willamette Library, as a gift, a copy of the book, The Bridge Between Matter and Spirit is Matter Becoming Spirit by Paolo Soleri. This, along with another book by Soleri, Arcology: the City in the Image of Man will be on reserve in the library. The experimental city of Arcosanti is described in the last section of Arcology.