When I photographed Paolo Soleri three years ago, he was about to turn 90. He was very sweet, bright and sharp, even at his age. I was sad to hear that he passed away yesterday, but also grateful for the path that he chose in his life, and the difference that he made. Below is an excerpt By Nancy Black, from the book “Difference Makers: Photographs of Leaders in Art, Science, Social Justice and the Environment,” which Publishing by the Seas will launch shortly.
Paolo Soleri was a young 93 when his heart stopped beating on April 9, 2013. Nancy and I are honored to share his work, and remain inspired by his incomparable vision.
Paolo Soleri, architect
By Nancy Black
Paolo Soleri dedicated his life to reinventing the urban development model. After receiving his Ph.D. in Architecture in his native Italy at Torino Polytechnico in 1946, he moved to the United States to study with Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a pioneer in city design and a proponent for the car-less city as early as the 1960’s.
He created his original studio, Cosanti, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and developed a wind bell crafting business to support his architectural endeavors. Later he began Arcosanti, in the desert of central Arizona, as a prototype for “arcology”, putting
theory into practice. Arcosanti is still under construction, as well as serving as an international tourist destination, where workshops are hosted to continue teaching Paolo Soleri’s ideas. Through arcology, cities are designed to maximize
the interaction and accessibility of an urban environment, to minimize the use of energy, raw materials and land, reducing waste and environmental pollution, and to allow interaction with the surrounding natural environment.
His work has been exhibited worldwide, and he has written six books plus numerous essays and monographs. Soleri has received a fellowship from the Graham Foundation and two from the Guggenheim Foundation. He has been awarded three honorary doctorates, the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Craftmanship (1963), the Gold Medal from the World Biennial
of Architecture in Sofia, Bulgaria (1981), the Silver Medal of the Academy of Architecture in Paris (1984), and the Golden Lion Award at La Bienale di Venezia (2000). Soleri was the subject of a major exhibition in Rome on his life and work, titled Paolo Soleri: Ethics and Urban Inventiveness (2005), as well as being awarded the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement (2006), and the Arizona Technology Council, Arizona Governor’s Celebration of Innovation Lifetime Achievement Award (2008).