Exploring the Desert

When you don’t have the time or money to travel to a far and exotic location, it is always interesting to discover the places around you. This is what led me to find a unique place in the Arizona desert.


Located between Phoenix (where virtually everyone in Arizona lives) and Prescott (where retirees from around the U.S. settle), there is a small town called Mayer. The town has a population of roughly 2000. There are more lizards than people here. It’s dry, high-desert, a lot of it and the desert continues on in its natural state for miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers).



Surprisingly, there is a somewhat hidden place in this small town. It is a place for the arts. One hundred or so working artists live here. They create ceramic and copper bells, design jewelry, run a tour of the property, host musical events, and tend to their farm and orchards.




The place is called Arcosanti. It is a collection of cement buildings and public spaces located in the Arizona desert. The idea behind this development came from an Italian architect named Paolo Soleri. He began the construction of Arcosanti in the 1970s and it is still under construction today.



Arcosanti is envisioned to one day be a sustainable, functioning city that doesn’t rely on the use of automobiles. To understand the idea behind the project, you arrive at the visitor center and take a tour.

The tour is by donation and it begins with a short video explaining the history and the vision of Paolo Soleri. Following the video, you are led by a volunteer around the grounds. After the tour, you can have a bite to eat at their cafe. When we visited, the food was fresh and there were vegetarian, vegan and carnivorous options. The art of the resident artists was for sale in the cafe and the bells were for sale in the visitor center.



The idea of Arcosanti to some may be a visionary and revolutionary goal, to others, it may be an impossible dream. Either way, it is a conversation piece for ideas of function, beauty, and design in urban planning. And, I am glad to have visited.

I wonder what other hidden places I will find in my backyard.



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