Soleri, Paolo: THE ARCHITECTURAL VISION OF PAOLO SOLERI. [Washington, DC: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1970].

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THE ARCHITECTURAL VISION OF PAOLO SOLERI

Paolo Soleri, Donald Wall

[Paolo Soleri, Donald Wall]: THE ARCHITECTURAL VISION OF PAOLO SOLERI. [Washington, DC: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1970].  Original edition. Square quarto. Perfect bound and stitched thick printed wrappers. [84] pp. Elaborate graphic design throughout.  Textblock starting to loosen from wrappers, trivial wear overall, but a very good or better copy.

9.85 x 9.85 softcover catalog for the exhibition “The Architectural Vision of Paolo Soleri” at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC from February 21 to April 5, 1970. This exhibition — and the concurrent publication of his landmark book, CITY IN THE IMAGE OF MAN — changed forever the global conversation about urban planning on our living planet. His term, “Arcology” joining the words architecture and ecology to represent one whole system of understanding human life on the earth is meant to serve as the basis for that conversation.

Here is Rick Poynor's essay from Eye [no. 32 vol. 8, 1999] titled "The Designer as Architect"

"When Donald Wall made this book about Italian architect Paolo Soleri, he uncannily projected a vision of 1990s typography in its most radical form.

"When future design historians go looking for precursors to the "new" typography of the 1990s, architecture critic Donald Wall's extraordinary monograph about the architect Paolo Soleri, published by Praeger in 1971, will require some careful attention. Just to list a few of the book's most striking typographic features is to recall the mannerisms of some of contemporary design's more celebrated figures: text blocks that run into the gutter; words reversed out of columns of type, obliterating the text; words that shoot off the edge of the text area and continue mid-letter on the next line; overlapping messages that merge in dense overlays with Soleri's photos and drawings; a giant Helvetica sentence that rolls on like a juggernaut for nineteen pages; a duplicated passage cancelled with the instruction "VOID THIS PAGE".

"It is routine in the late 1990s for designers to stress the "process" of making their designs. The idea owes much to 1960s artists such as Fluxus, who emphasised the impermanence of performance and used a range of strategies, such as written instructions, to ensure the fluid character of the "work." An even more specific debt to Fluxus typography and to concrete poetry can be seen in Visionary Cities' encrusted jigsaw assemblages of words. This marathon feat of rub-down lettering exposes the process of its own making as a structural and theoretical principle. Here is a book that appears to have been freeze-framed in a state of becoming.

"Where Visionary Cities differs markedly from so much recent experimentation is in the way that its manipulations are inseparable from its written content. Wall, a former professor of architectural theory, design and history at Catholic University, Washington DC, gave typographic shape to his own critical ideas, and the book is fully aware of the uniqueness of the project. Recalling El Lissitzky's famous maxim that "The new book demands the new writer," the dustjacket blurb describes Wall as "among the first of a new breed of authors." It continues: "He has the ability to manipulate graphically the writing process so that not only are content and format complementary and mutually elaborative, but each makes the other more convincing, as literature is given visual existence."

"The "arcology" of the book's title is a neologism coined by Soleri to describe a fusion of architecture and ecology, in which the built and the living interact in organic harmony. Shortly before its publication, Soleri -- born in Turin in 1919 -- began work on Arcosanti, an experimental town in the Arizona desert that will house 7,000 people when complete; its construction continues to this day. Visionary Cities is conceived architecturally – some spreads unfold to nearly two metres wide when fully extended – and it requires new routines from readers, who are led (or coerced) into alternative spatial and physical relationships with the page. The textual space of the book is also reconceived.

"At one point an essay is interrupted in mid-sentence by a series of shorter texts; it resumes, without announcement, many pages later. Such devices mean that the book can only be read in a non-linear way. It must be deciphered in fragments. It makes its points through repetition and remodulation of what it has already said.

"Visionary Cities, like Soleri's vision of "chronological destiny," is often grandiose. Its predominantly black pages are daunting and the architecture itself is not well shown. It confronts the reader with a spectacle so relentless and estranging that it could easily have proved insurmountable to some. No book that cultivates indeterminacy to this degree could be called a masterpiece, but it is certainly a landmark in its synthesis of critical commentary and design."

Through his work as an architect, urban designer, artist, craftsman, and philosopher, Paolo Soleri (1919-2013) has been exploring the countless possibilities of human aspiration. One outstanding endeavor is Arcosanti, an urban laboratory, constructed in the Arizona high desert. It attempts to test and demonstrate an alternative human habitat which is greatly needed in this increasingly perplexing world. This project also exemplifies his steadfast devotion to creating an experiential space to "prototype" an environment in harmony with man.

In his philosophy "arcology" (architecture + ecology), Soleri formulated a path that may aid us on our evolutionary journey toward a state of aesthetic, equity, and compassion. For more than a half century, his work, marked by a broad-ranging and coherent intellect (so scarce in the age of specialization), has influenced many in search of a new paradigm for our built environment.

If the act of living includes the pioneering of reality through imagination and sweat, Soleri has given us more than enough food for thought in the examples he has left on paper and in the desert wind.

"Soleri bases his entire arcology neither on economic, social, or  industrial considerations but on a philosophical system. It is so  all-embracing in its scope that it relates the arcological city unity  to the entire evolution of organic life, from the proto-biological  primordial ooze to an as yet unevolved Neo-Matter . . . . Insisting that nature and human evolution work as vectors or parallel  progressions, he ties the future fate of mankind to the same  increasing complexification that has marked the rise of our organism  from the amoeba."   -- Sibyl Moholy-Nagy The Architectural Forum, 1970

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