Marina Sapunova Report
Ms. Marina Sapunova, Vladimir State University, Russia, for travel to the Arcosanti Project, Arizona, USA.
My Arcosanti Experience.
I participated in the five-week workshop at Arcosanti, Arizona. One of the activities during
the “practical” part was my work at the Soleri Archives. There I was responsible , in addition to
other work, for producing the three-day a week news blog “Today Arcosanti” Blog three days a
week. https://www.arcosanti.org/ (Today Arcosanti). These blog selections summarize well my
experiences during the program.
The first week was full of lectures and trips. One of the most interesting things was the natural
walk with Roger. We went round Arcosanti; and he told us many interesting and funny stories
about plants and animals here, about the Indians and cowboys, about the nature and about
weather. He told us how people lived here long-long time ago. We hiked to the one of the
mesas near Arcosanti and saw the ruins of Indian dwellings.
Each department here in Arcosanti made a presentation about their work; that gave us a
chance to see what people work on here and to decide what is most interesting to pursue.
We saw the Archives, the Ceramics Apse, and the Foundry, the Maintenance, the Metal shop,
the recycling site and many other departments. We also had a nice tour of some of resident’s
houses here. At the end of the week we met Paolo Soleri at the Archives to discuss some
questions about Archology and Arcosanti.
Our second week was an introduction to work. We spent three days on the construction site.
While working there we learned how to use many instruments; first we pulled down
the plywood wall and made the frame for a new one, and then we fixed some auxiliary
structures inside the Heat Duct Tunnel and started to make a base for the Greenhouse.
The second week of our workshop ended with an amazing two-day Field Trip to Phoenix. The
first point we toured was the Dome House in Cave Creek, designed by Paolo Soleri in 1950. The house is made like a unified interconnected space with passive heating (in winter) and cooling (is summer). Mary Hoadley told us that in 1950’s it was just a naked desert around and nobody wanted to live here, but now this area is much inhabited. It is still easy to see this house from a long way off because of its notable dome roof.
The next stop was the pedestrian bridge in Scottsdale, where we had a tour of the building site
and Mary with Rodger gave us some information about this project, construction, and next
stages of design; and they showed us principal points of future structure. Now they are working on finishing fence walls and preparing bases for two huge pipes.
After that we went to Taliesin, The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and got a wonderful tour.
Our guide told us many interesting things about Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, about history of Taliesin and its surroundings, about Paolo Soleri’s work there; we went through the main buildings, saw the planning office, concert hall, personal rooms; and then he showed us some of their student’s shelters, which are situated around Taliesin.
That night we spent at Cosanti. This place is much different then Arcosanti. All the curved
structures seem to be more private and detailed; all the spaces are situated closer to each
other and have very precise design. Sometimes you can hardly define borders between interior
and exterior spaces. And by simply following the trail you can enjoy the always changing
The next morning we had a tour with around Cosanti, with lots of very interesting stories about
constructions, buildings, history, projects and Paolo Soleri. First we had breakfast in the Earth
House. It was both breakfast and our tour starting point. Then we saw the Cosanti gallery,
apses with the foundry and ceramics,the office building, where is the huge attractive model of
Arcosanti 1969, bridge model and many other models.
After that we met Paolo Soleri at Cat-Cast House and could ask him any questions. I guess
everybody was glad to have such an informal dialog with P. Soleri.
At the end of the day we drove to see Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale and a new Phoenix Library.
It’s difficult to describe how interesting the whole adventure really was, but we spent two days
very saturated with information and impressions.
On the third week of our workshop we started to prepare the place for a future slab: smoothing
the surface, framing the form, and making a proper ground level. The next day we got up very
early to mix the concrete mass. David explained us what the proportions were and how the
process should be done.
We started with putting cement into the mixer, then gravel, sand and water. In some minutes,
when the mass became homogeneous, David showed us how to make a slump test. We put
some concrete into the special cone and then took the form off, and measured a height of
concrete mass. It was good enough for pouring so Jeff could drive the concrete mixer down to
the Construction Site.
On the Construction Site everything was ready for casting. We were divided into small groups:
some of us helped with concrete mixer, others with smoothing the concrete and checking the
proper position of wired mesh in the concrete mass, a couple of people went with a big beam
along the frame to make the surface of a slab flat enough. When the mass was put into the
frame and set a little; we started finishing the surface with trowels. The last part was spraying
the slab with a special liquid to keep moisture into concrete mass.
The work was completely done before lunch and after that we watched two movies made by
ACI about mixers, slump tests and casting.
The Soleri Archives is where the department keeps Paolo Soleri’s history. There are his scrolls, drawings, sketches, photos, books and everything that somehow relates to Paolo Soleri here. On one of my first days I had a tour here to see how the Archives system works. Everything has a certain number and special conditions of keeping, so I had to understand how to work with particular object. They showed me how to label the press materials about Paolo Soleri or his works, and how to work with database. So I started to work. During my three weeks I was responsible for Today Arcosanti Blog that was very fun and interesting for me. Then I worked with zoning and planning documents of Arcosanti (dated 1960-1980) and put them into digital database. And also I added to database some publications in Russian abou Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti and Archology.
During these weeks, Sue and Anita, who work in the archives, were preparing materials for
the exhibition and I was surprised by the process, how scrupulous it was. They assessed Paolo Soleri’s scrolls, meter by meter and located damages (measured and drew them). So the museum then would have the whole notion about everything. And David was working with printed materials, so the colors of printed scroll now look like the original one. They have special boxes for every drawing and special wrappings.
Maybe these are usual things, but I learned about them for the first time. I saw the archive
work from the inside, and I was really surprised by the scale and importance of what they are
doing for keep the history and knowledge.