Photo credit: The New York Times
If you live in the Phoenix area, you will never run out of amazing day trip opportunities. No matter which direction you travel, there are so many unique spots to explore, and one of our favorites to recommend is Arcosanti. This is a town unlike any other you will find anywhere in the country, and it is a great spot to take any friends or visitors with an interest in art, architecture, or sustainable living.
Located 70 miles north of Phoenix, you will find Arcosanti, a hidden gem of a town in Arizona. This special spot is known for many things, including their molten bronze bell casting business, and for being the birthplace of arcology! The city sits on 25 acres of land, and has been a work in progress for several decades.
The History Behind the City
Photo credit: Visit Sedona
The origins of Arcosanti date back to the 1970s, when the Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri began construction in the area. His goal with this “experimental town” was to design a community that showcased how to live sustainably in an urban setting. This has always been a very important aspect of life in the desert, because natural resources are limited and must be conserved. Soleri’s concept is called arcology, or the intersection of architecture and ecology.
With Arcosanti, the architect Soleri was able to bring his vision to life and build a successful, environmentally friendly urban city. Arcosanti has been open ever since as a place where architects and city developers can go to study his methods and take notes for building their own communities.
Today volunteer residents live at Arcosanti, and it still remains an amazing architectural experiment both structurally and socially. The residents are able to demonstrate how to live close to one another in nature while still being respectful of the earth. You will notice when you visit that everything at Arcosanti is built vertically. This design style not only conserves space, but allows everything to be multi-functional as well.
Take a Workshop to Hone Your Craft
Photo credit: Arcosanti
If you are interested in architecture or learning more about Paolo Soleri’s principles of architecture, you can enroll in a five or six week workshop course where you will attend lectures and also get hands-on experience helping with construction on the premises. There are also options to take shorter workshops, and these attract a wide variety of artistically inclined students who may be interested in other activities such as photography or experiential learning.
The best part about taking a workshop or class at Arcosanti is that the unique city environment allows students to learn by doing. There is no better way to learn than by immersing yourself in the subject material!
Visit Arcosanti For the Day
Photo credit: Arcosanti
If you are curious to see Arcosanti for yourself, plan a day trip to take a tour of the city. Tours are offered Monday and Tuesday at 9:30 am and 11 am, and Wednesday- Sunday at 9:30 am, 11:00 am, and 3:00pm. It’s important to make a reservation and save your spot before you go, as the tours are capped at a certain quantity and space is limited.
The daily tours are conducted by knowledgeable resident tour guides, who can provide a backstory of Arcosanti from the 1970s to the present day, along with learning more about sustainable architecture. The guided tours typically last about an hour and a half, and cost $20 per person.
If you are passionate about a certain aspect of Arcosanti, whether that is learning more about the architecture of sustainable technology, there are also more expensive specialized tours you can book as well that go further in depth on those topics.
Stay For the Evening at Arcosanti
If you visit and don’t want to leave and drive back to Phoenix, don’t worry— you are in luck! Visitors can spend the night in Arcosanti, with an option to stay in one of their greenhouse guest rooms, or spend the night even closer to nature in one of their three campsites.
Photo credit: Arcosanti
Their greenhouse guest rooms offer a more private and inclosed experience, with a gorgeously designed, minimalistic living space. Each of the greenhouse rooms has a beautiful view overlooking the mountains and nature outside.
It is recommended that all visitors arrive earlier in the day to take the guided tour and immerse themselves in the town before spending the night. Something else to be aware of is that as part of Arcosanti’s environmentally friendly approach, the greenhouse rooms rely on passive heating and cooling systems, so there is no air conditioning in any of the rooms.
Photo credit: Hipcamp
If you want to be closer to nature, spend the night in the Arcosanti campsite! This is a very affordable option, as it is only $20 a night for two guests. While it is inexpensive, the views cannot be beat. The campsite is perched in a beautiful location on a mesa overlooking the Agua Fria River. Guests are expected to bring their own tents, and should always bring a flashlight while camping. There are a lot of other critters out in the desert at night, and you don’t want to accidentally step on a snake or scorpion in the dark!
Appreciate the Cosanti Wind Bells
Photo credit: Experience Scottsdale
Another part of Soleri’s legacy is his work with a technique known as “earth-casting,” where concrete is poured over the earth and takes on the earth’s shape. This is a method used to create many of his ceramic pieces, including the ceramic Cosanti Wind Bells. These handcrafted pieces are still being created today using the same methodology Soleri first used.
If you are local to the Scottsdale area, you must also visit the Cosanti Ceramics gallery and store on Doubletree Ranch Road in Scottsdale, which is a gallery of Paolo Soleri’s work. Guests can also tour this studio and watch the casting process take place. The gallery is very cool to explore, and is actually on the Arizona Registry of Historic Places.
You can also learn about the Consanti wind bells while at Arcosanti, and visitors can see the foundry and observe the wind bell making process at that location as well. If you love the wind bells and want to bring some home, visitors can always purchase the wind bells online.
Watch a Concert at the Arcosanti Amphitheater
Photo credit: Arcosanti
Arcosanti has developed a close-knit community over the years, especially among the full-time residents. As part of their community programming, Arcosanti is always hosting cultural events for the public.
Throughout the year, Arcosanti puts on many notable events in their incredible amphitheater. Check their events calendar to find out if any events are happening while you visit. They host a wide variety of performances, with everything from classical music to aromatic fire circus performers!
This one-of-a-kind spot is not only beautiful to visit, but allows visitors to learn so much about architecture and ideas for sustainable living. Add this to your Arizona bucket list, and plan a day trip with friends, or stop by on your next trip to Prescott or Sedona!