Paolo Soleri and the Arcosanti Project



Paolo Soleri was born in 1919 in Turin, Italy.  He received highest honors from the Politecnico di Torino in 1956 and came to the U.S. in 1947 to spend a year and a half at Taliesin West in Arizona and Taliesin in Wisconsin with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Soleri returned to Italy in 1950 where he was commissioned to build Ceramica Artistica Solimene, a large ceramics factory.  Here he learned the concepts for his famous Arcosanti bells.

He settled in Arizona in 1956 and committed his life to Cosanti Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation teaching his philosophy and works under the influence of Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The Foundation’s major project is Arcosanti which I have visited.  It is a planned community under construction since 1970 and is 70 miles north of Phoenix, AZ.  Based on the concept of Arcology, it marries architecture with ecology.   It is a self-sustaining model of communal living.

Since 1970 over 6,000 visitors had participated in the construction project, it was only 3% complete as of 2005.   The sale of the Arcosanti bells help to keep the Foundation alive, I have two of them and they are beautifully designed. 

Soleri wind bells are made from either ceramic or bronze.  You can watch them being made in the foundry on the premises, the red hot molten metal being cast to make each one by hand.  I have had mine for many years; it is a treasure and a reminder of the dream of a man in the desert of Arizona.

Solari has received many awards for his work and written several books.  He has three honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the Guggenheim in New York, NY.

The Sky is the Limit – I.M. Pei

Kennedy Libarary

Kennedy Libarary

Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou, China in 1917 and raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai.  Better known as I.M. Pei he moved to the U.S. in 1935. 

His mentors were Le Corbusier who he met while attending MIT in 1935 and Frank Lloyd Wright.  While atending  MIT and Harvard he befriended Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

As a child he learned English from reading the Bible and Charles Dickens in the Protestant school run by missionaries that he attended.  He loved Hollywood and especially Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.  Watching Bing Crosby movies inspired him to move to America to attend college.

His most controversial building is the glass and steel pyramid he designed for the Louvre museum in Paris in the early 1980’s.   He has won many prizes in architecture most notibly the Pritzker Prize sometimes called the Nobel Prize of architecture.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis chose I.M. Pei to construct the memorial library dedicated to President John F. Kennedy after his assassination in 1963.   She felt he was an architect full of promise like Kennedy was, and he was born the same year as the President.  Pei considers this commission to be the most important of his life, filled with symbolism for optimism.  It was dedicated on October 20, 1979.

His body of work is enormous, I. M. Pei still dazzles us with his vision and style.   Modernistic with cubist themes he combines traditional elements of architecture with progressive design based on geometric patterns.

If She’s Good Enough for Randolph William Hearst… Julia Morgan, Architect

Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan is best known as the architect who built the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California for Randolf William Hearst the newspaper magnate.   Julia was born in San Francisco, CA  in 1872 and raised in nearby Oakland just across the Bay. 

She designed over 700 buildings in her career just in California.  Throughout her career she built many buildings serving women and girls.  Many Bay Area YWCA’s are her design.

Graduating from the University of California in Berkeley with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1894, she was urged by her friend and mentor Bernard Maybeck to go to Paris to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  She was denied at first because they did not allow women.  Upon her second try she deliberately failed to make a point and the third time she passed the architecture exams and placed 13th out of 376 applicants.  She was the first woman to graduate.

She returned to Berkeley and worked on projects on campus, providing decorative elements on the Hearst Mining Building and designs for the Hearst Greek Theater.    In 1904 she opened her own office.

Many commissions followed the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.  She built many building in the Bay Area, The Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland pays homage to her. The school is the only middle school for girls in the East Bay occupying Alderwood Hall at Mills College, a 1924 design by Morgan.

She was inducted into the California  Hall of Fame by Governor Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver on May 28, 2008 located at The California Museum of History, Women and the Arts.  Her great-niece accepted the honor.