Paolo Soleri interviewed by Jerry Brown

Part 1 December 8, 1995

JB: Welcome to another edition of "We the People". This hour we have a very special guest from Arizona, Paolo Soleri, an author, a visionary, an architect, a pioneer of new human spaces. He's the author of Arcosanti, an Urban Laboratory, the Book Technology and Cosmogenesis, the Archology, the City in the Image of Man, the Omega Seed, and that's got a logical hypothesis. I first met Paolo Soleri many, many years ago when he was visiting California, and I went to Arcosanti, which is a...I'm going to let him describe this incredible...Words take it away from me.

Paolo, welcome to the show! Please describe Arcosanti for me.

PS: Good afternoon, and thank you for the great introduction.

JB: And I just want to say to those who do not know Paolo Soleri, he was one of the students of Frank Lloyd Wright. He came over here from Italy after World War II, and he's been working...I guess more or less permanently seventy miles from Scottsdale building his dream right in several thousand acres at about an elevation of 3,000 feet in the Arizona desert. Now, take it from there, Paolo.

PS: Well, we have been attempting the last twenty years at least to develop something that may be persuasive in the north to introduce society to an idea which is a very old idea overseeing man congregating into what we call towns, cities and metropolitan systems. So it is a very old story, the fact that the city is the title of civilization. Civilization, the term itself says that there's no separation between the appearance of the cities and the development of civilizations.

JB: So the cities are tied into civilization...

PS: Yes.

JB: And yet there is a destructive element right along with it, because it certainly seems like the city, at least in modern times in so many places, is very hostile to civilization. If by that we mean something that's elegant and creative and beautiful and pleasurable.

PS: Well, that's somehow the pathology of the city, and every phenomena some pathologies, so we should be careful to discriminate between what the notion of the city can offer and what it's offering for us for millenniums, and which we are now making the city into which is very much what you are saying an environment which is not very conducive to, what you might call, the good society. The fact remains that if we eliminate all the cities from this continent, what remains is not much. In fact, even though we Americans tend to be very skeptical about the presence of the city, we must recognize that the city is still the place where things are happening in scale and in quality which is very real otherwise.

JB: That's interesting that things where they are happening in scale and quality, and yet cities receive such a low estimation, not only by people in government, but by the policies and by the fact that people are moving away from cities, and have been doing so for almost thirty years.

PS: Yeah, I think that's a horrendous mistake, and maybe to give a glimpse to what I'm saying, let me try to come up with some kind of metaphor. We know that the population of the globe is doubling from 5 billion a few years ago, we are going to be 10 billions by the year 2050 or so. So that means that whatever the stress is upon the planet that we put upon the...or need now...will be double by the doubling of the population. So that would mean that in reality that we would be needing the equivalent of two planets by the year 2050. Then, we Americans have the American dream to implement. Well, if we implement the American dream and we take that other...the other module for the planet, then the American dream would be a planetary dream, and that would be very much in tune with the notion of democracy, of justice, or equality, and so on. So if that was going to happen, then we must multiple the two planets we need, because of the doubling of the population by 20, that's what we Americans consume compared to the average population. So, we would be in need of 40 planets by the year 2050, if the American dreams become the planetary dream.

JB: So what you're really saying is that we as Americans are modeling a way of life that takes either forty times...will by the time we get more people...forty more planets...

PS: Yes...

JB: ...or we cut our standard of living by forty.

PS: That's a sore point. Unless we moderate, unless we re-invent the American dream in terms of the physiology of it, then it's not going to be a dream, it's going to be doomsday, and naturally, we wouldn't get to that point, because many other things would happen, but one thing that would happen was going to be an enormous increase in suffering, in separation, in isolation, in segregation, in xenophobia, and the list can go on and on. Because the planet, for the first time in the history of this planet in the history of mankind, the planet appears as the main, one of the main actors in the play, because its limitations now are becoming evident and we cannot ignore these very clear and very substantial fact that we cannot demand from the planet whatever we please, so what we need is to take the American dream and frugalize it to be able to make it into something that instead of being geared to the finality of materialese and edenese, and so on, should become more oriented toward the inner life of individuals and societies. You might need less of the physical in order to produce more of the mental and the spiritual.

JB: Okay, so what we really have to recognize and own as Americans is that our way of being is itself perhaps the greatest threat to the continuation of civilization.

PS: I think it happens and seems to be really that, and...

JB: I think that's important just to pause a moment with that, the way we are. The way I drive my car, the way I live along with the other 255 million Americans, we are setting a pattern that by the fact that we puffing ourselves up as number one, we're validating a way in which when generalized in accordance with our own principles of democracy and equality will result in absolute devastation of the planet because it violates the laws of biology.

PS: Yeah, yeah, and...

JB: Or putting it another way, we as Americans require billions of people to live like slaves and serfs and peons so that the planet can permit our particular way of being.

PS: That's right, so that there's this privileged class which we will say Americans and the Europeans and whoever comes in, and this privileged class would have the right to control and to limit the resources, and let's say, the fulfillment of the majority of the population of the globe, because think what's going to happen when China, India and Africa are going to move into this cycle of hyperconsumption that we are championing. Things are going to precipitate very rapidly, and the antagonists, the notion of "my nation is the first," and all the xenophobia that we are slowly developing is going to be catastrophic and a...

JB: All it means is that for China and India, maybe Africa too, to copy middle class or even low middle class American ways of being...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...and the whole thing it's going to be a war for the dwindling resources available to sustain that blotted, as you call it, hyperconsumerism.

PS: Yeah, and you know even to project the notion that we might go back to the tribal obscurities over many thousands of years ago.

JB: The only difficulty is now that many places, you know China but also India, have nuclear weapons and even have transcontinental missiles.

PS: That's part of the gloom, I mean, part of the tragedy that we might be setting the condition for.

JB: So here you have a situation where the politics in America, and probably the discussion in a lot of people's minds, is will the middle class be able to keep what it has and get more, and will the lower middle class be able to catch up in terms of hyperconsumerism, and while that focus is absorbing people's attention, those ways and models and images are transmitted to the rest of the world, and as they get even a little bit closer to where we are...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...the whole thing is going to turn into a vast what...war...I mean some fanatic, not a fanatic, just some person showing up in India might say, wait a minute, we don't want to live on 200 kilograms of grain a year, we want to live on four times that amount like you do, and have some nuclear missiles here, and you either start sending us grain or else, and we think Shiva will take care of the rest.

PS: Yeah, that's in a very short, concise statement that's a possibility.

JB: And there's probably fifty others that are equally as bad.

PS: Oh, yes. But now let me make a little step further and I'm bringing in now the aspect of planning in architecture and why. Because all the activities of mankind, the bulkiest, the most expensive, the most demanding, and the most necessary is sheltering. We have to shelter ourselves, our families, our society, the institution that society needs. So this sheltering is really an immense imposition, an immense transformation of nature into shelter, and this is quite evident. Now, the most consuming, the most wasteful, the most polluted, the most segregative kind of shelter we can come up is the suburban shelter. So we are presented with this problem, that we like the notion of expanding into the suburban development. The fact is that's the most pernicious way of going about generating the future for our children because it is the most consuming, etc., etc.

JB: Okay, so that's another important point...

PS: Yip.

JB: ...because it invalidates totally the entire discussion in the United States and Europe about, oh, will we get enough economic growth to expand suburban reality for many more millions of people, and you have just asserted that that is in itself is a perversion of what the human spirit is capable of.

PS: Yeah, that sounds very, very harsh, but I'm afraid we are to read it for what it is, which is that really since the habitat is the most imposing, the greatest of all activity in which we are involved with and necessarily so, if the choice of habitat is the wrong choice, we are in for catastrophe.

JB: All right, and are the suburbs wrong because they're spread out? Are they wrong because it covers over soil? Is it wrong because it kills other species? Is it wrong because it creates a box that you have to fill up with littler boxes that than you import over great distances?

PS: You're hitting on...

JB: Or is it wrong because by creating a space for all these boxes, the boxes are made, the toys, the gadgets and then you have to throw them somewhere and that then fills up even more space.

PS: Absolutely. I mean, the larger is the container, let's say the single family home is a good example, and the more like I have financial power, the bigger has to be the container, the more I have to purchase in order to fill the container. So this process of building larger and larger units, isolating them into what you call the suburban sprawl, what we call the...and, and then trying to connect each box, as you call it, to the resources and the utilities and the retrieval systems like sewage and garbage and so on, all those boxes are going to be the epitome, the real epitome of consumption. So we set up a cycle where we say where happiness is the consumption, therefore we have to consume more, which means we have to produce more, which means we have to transform more of the planet into what we feel is connected to our own fulfillment. That's a declaration of materialism, if there is one. Orienting ourselves to a materialistic kind of set up that is going to kill us, and number one because of the limitation of the planet, number two because that's an indication that instead of transcending toward mental and excellence we are moving toward the hedonism...

JB: Okay, stop right there Paolo, we'll be back in thirty seconds. You're listening to "We the People." I'm Jerry Brown, and we're speaking with Paolo Soleri.

We're back with "We the People," I'm Jerry Brown. We're speaking with Paolo Soleri. We're discussing the suburban home as ideal and perversion. You mentioned two points, Paolo, I just want to repeat those again. Would you say them again. The suburban home is a box that declares two things: one for materialism and hedonism. Did I say that wrong? I want you to phrase that again.

PS: Well, we were talking about the boxing in our lives because of reason of sheltering, and I said, depending on the choice in this boxing in, we are going to our future or we might not have a future, and I picked up on suburbia. I said that of all the ways of sheltering people and societies, this suburban way is the most consuming, the most demanding, the most wasteful, the most pollutant, and the most segregational.

JB: We didn't even mention the point that what this does to the spirit to be isolated and entertained in that box called the suburban house.

PS: Yes, because the more we surround ourselves with the gadgetry that we feel we need and some of those gadgetry we really need, the more we do that the more we tend to generate a condition that we said that the mental processes are not very interesting, not very necessary, and what's more necessary is to have fun and to have pleasure of playing with gadgetries and dedicate ourselves to activities that are at the end not very fulfilling.

JB: And then the less fulfilling they are then the more hyperconsumption we have to engage in that cover up the whole of our own emptiness.

PS: That's right. There is a socket there that demands to be filled, and we are filling it with more things which are enlarging the socket.

JB: What an incredible idea. The more we fill up our own hole, the larger and deeper it gets.

PS: I'm afraid, yes. It's part of the increasing expectation that it's built in ourselves evidently, biologically almost. We feel in order to have security, in order to have fulfillment, in order to have pleasure out of our experience, we need to surround ourselves with more and more physical elements, and naturally technology is a fantastic instrument introducing those things. In fact, the know how it's very much what we excel, especially in this country. We have a tremendous ability to invent, to generate things and then make them popular and create a market for them, and this is very nice and important, but it's not at the real core of what we might be here for.

JB: Yeah, it's almost like we've been cursed.

PS: I tend to believe, yes.

JB: That someone has imposed a curse and that the greatest skill is, I guess in some respects, it's creating the need for the stuff that our second greatest skill can produce, which by the reducing of intimacy and friendship and spiritual reality, then forces us to even want more inhuman needs and artificial needs, which then we create stuff, physical elements to satisfy, and this just escalates and cascades until...until what?

PS: That's really what the consequences are. If a child is told from the moment he gets up from bed to the moment when he gets into bed, let's say twenty hours a day, he's told that the purchasing of an object is part of it's own right and it's own happiness, that child is going to be very faithful to his dogma. And so we end up by having this almost this persecution notion that unless we partake in the market cycle, we aren't good Americans. And the politician tells us that, and the corporate person tells us that. Even the theologian tells us that. Academia tells us that, so we are really are in some kind of a fix. We are really leading some kind of a utopian dream that its very, very dangerous.

JB: Yeah, that's very interesting. Even the religions, because the religions will define distributive justice or communitive justices as Thomas Aquinas talked about it, but now it is being applied to a totally different world where unless all these physical elements, these toys, these gadgets, the stuff, isn't divided around more equally, that's morally wrong. So the theologian will set out an imperative for an equal distribution of stuff that's not needed, and which when obtained, will destroy the whole basis for human community and religion itself.

PS: Yeah, I mean if you will think for a moment what a shopping center presents us, really try to penetrate the superficial impressions, and then take an Indian or a Chinese person for whom this incredible place of fantasy, and we look at the department store and whatever is in part of the shopping center, then we begin to wonder where are we wandering with our minds.

JB: I remember when I was growing up, I was born in 1938 and I was probably six or seven by the time I went to a department store in downtown San Francisco, and it was probably the only occasion for the first few years was around Christmas time, and the top floor of this particular department store, the Emporium, was just a toyland. It was so exciting. I mean, I can't describe the rush that I had in going there, but it was just available during Christmas. That was like maybe 1946, or something. Now it's Christmas everyday.

PS: Yeah, that's the beautiful or the exception that it makes for this excitement, and now it's becoming almost boring, so that the little child with the mother that cannot afford even to make a living, which is human, the child goes into the marketplace, into the department store, into the shopping center, and he asks the mother to buy this, and this, and this, and the mother has to say, yes, I will do my best in order to satisfy you. If I cannot satisfy you, evidently you're a second class citizen, evidently you're not worthy of the American dream.

PS: So, your a bad mother and you better go to work, and the more you work the less you are available for your child, and the more he will then feel the need to get you to buy him stuff which will require to have you work even harder and be away from him even more, so that he will even need more stuff. And everywhere you look you see almost cycles of perverse incentives that feed on themselves.

PS: Yeah, it's harsh talk, but I'm afraid it's real. Your saying what's going on, and that's not only unfortunate, that's quite tragic indeed.

JB: Now, you've seen this for a long, long time, so you have been grappling with it, not just like yesterday, but for the last, what, forty or fifty years?

PS: Don't make me that...that super old.

JB: Your not super old, but you start thinking about when your twenty. How old are you?

PS: Oh, seventy-six.

JB: All right then, I'm not too far off.

PS: It doesn't take that much. If you think a little what's going on, and now, as I was saying, we are presented with this demographic explosion, and this demand that we feel we have the right for what is going to be fulfillment, then by necessity we are presented ourselves with a very limited future, and a very critical one, and possibly a very bloody one.

JB: Okay. We've been looking at the darkside here. You've been looking at it a long time. What's the other side? I mean, what's the vision of the city that doesn't fall into this dark and deep and infinity abyss, but starts things on a different basis? And because it was the human evolution, the creation of the human mind can't be to fall into this trap, there must be, I don't believe the universe is that perverse. I don't think God would have put this kind of a hex on us. We must be missing something.

PS: We wouldn't touch upon that for the moment. Yes, there is a history that tells us that there are other ways of fulfillment, and the history, I was saying, is practically the history of communities which tend to be not just very small, but tend to be very large, because through numbers we are able to afford things that we are otherwise unable to afford. At the same time the city or the town presents an environment that by necessity is more frugal. Think again to the houses. Instead of having a large house, I might have a very small unit, and I cannot fill that unit with as many things as I can fill the big house. So we have to see if we can re-vamp our mindset in such a way as to recognize that perhaps excellence and worthiness is not geared to the amount of ownership that we can carry around.

JB: As you are speaking, I see in my eye here my visit to Japan, and I visited in 1960 and also I visited just a few years ago, and the Japanese room which was so small and would often have since they would knell on the floor and they would have a futon they can roll-up and use the same room for sleeping, or the same room for eating, or reading, or whatever, now we've taught them, in fact they're even negotiations based on the premise that Japan is doing something wrong. They're exporting stuff rather than creating domestic demand in the form of furniture, and beds, and bigger houses, and actually in discussions between the United States and Japan the premise is made that the Japanese are hurting world trade because they're not consuming enough domestically. So what you've just described as a virtue has already been defined as a central vice of the modern economic trading system.

PS: That seems to me to indicate that the kind of utopian thinking that we care carrying on, because again, the difference between the domesday of pastime and the domesday that we tend to preach in the present is that the presence of the planet now which is very critically, clearly in terms of limitations. So, what in the past could have been a pleasure in anticipating terrible things, now it's a real menace because of this contest between a number of people, the consumption that we are beginning to feel is imperative, and the fact that the planet cannot deliver.

JB: Okay, so there's the misfit. The pattern of consumption and the number of people.

PS: That's right, and the limitations of the planet.

JB: And the limitation, the biology.

PS: Yeah. But then overlaying that is the fact of values and the notion of what's the virtue of this species we call the human species, and what might be the future of this human phenomena. Which might in fact be far more telling and far more profound than the fact that we tend to be materialistically oriented, hedonistically happy, so on and on.

JB: Yeah, well obviously since the human species can't go down the same road increasing numbers, increasing consumption, the laws of biology say no at some point, then there must be built into our structure...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...some other vision, some other outlet. It can't be that what destroys us is what we need.

PS: Yeah, and I think this other agency is interiorization, you know. To make reality into a more and more an inner reality where such ideas are filtered by our minds and it's made human and very, very fulfilling.

JB: Hold on just a moment, Paolo, we're going to take a thirty second break. You are listening to "We the People." I'm talking to Paolo Soleri. We'll be right back.

JB: Your here with "We the People." I'm Jerry Brown. And by the way, those of you who would like to get information and join and support "We the People," here's the number: 800-426-1112. I'm speaking with Paolo Soleri, whose in Arizona at this moment, and just before the break, Paolo, you were talking about interiorization.

PS: Yes.

JB: Now that's a word that a lot of people probably aren't familiar with.

PS: Well, in more plain words is that whenever we are in the presence of life, whatever the level of life is from the bacterial up to the human, we are in the presence of a phenomenon of a process that is interiorizing matter and making it into life, and then eventually into consciousness, and then subconsciousness. So this is what...any biological system is driven by its own interior motivation, while any technological system of physical system has to be ruled and regulated by outer drives, so that's what they call statistical lives to rather this inner motivating stress that makes for the behavior of the organism.

JB: So life has...I don't want to use the word genetic...but it has some sort of inner principle that is pushing it in a certain direction or in certain directions, and the technologies have to be pushed by our conscious purposes, our plans.

PS: That's right. Once life enters into the human domain, it's this interior drive, which as you were saying is genetic knowledge and so on, or you might call it instinctual. With the appearance of the human mind, it becomes also cultural, which means this inner motivation is driven by the biological aspect of the human system and also by the cultural aspect of the human system, but it is always coming from the mentally, from a decision from inside the organism. It's not coming from outside.

JB: Okay, so if it's coming...what's driving us is coming from within...

PS: Basically.

JB: ...then what is without shouldn't be able to carry the day.

PS: Well, what is without evidently is the reality in which we are immersed, so we cannot ignore it, but at this point we might be able to guide it, and the best guidance is not to say, well, I'm going to gulp more and more of you matter in order to find my own fulfillment. What's now we are in for is that I'm going to look at you outside, and I'm going to transform you in manners which are going to make for more fulfillment in terms of my inner drives.

JB: Okay, if we took as our project the transformation of the city based on our inner drives...

PS: Yes.

JB: ...what would that begin to look like?

PS: Well, number one, we should be coherent with this factor we are trying to discuss about the limitations of the planet and the danger of becoming oriented toward materialism, so the city, which is the habitat, which is the shelter, should be a container which encourages this movement toward the values which are generating from inside instead of being geared toward what the outer makes available to us in terms of technology and in terms of the magic of technology. So, given the situation today, we have to abandon the notion that suburbian sprawl is going to be the answer, but yet to return to the notion that city and the town is where we can develop our future.

JB: It's almost as though this suburban materialistic expansion is almost akin to a paganism of the ancient world that had to be overthrown or was overthrown by this new interior religion called Christianity. At least as an analogy.

PS: Yes...

JB: But the paganism here is so predominant that even religious groups are caught up in it and transform there churches into the very paganism that they think they are overcoming, but the war between the materialism what is and the inner spirit which is pushing against it is even greater than the Roman/Christian conflict of 2000 years ago.

PS: Oh, yeah, and it's becoming more critical because now, as you were saying, we can arm ourselves with weapons which are really catastrophic. Our power to impose our wills is becoming more and more, greater and greater, and that which was before despotic ability of the despot to impose upon society, now is transferred to everybody. So we are all in a way despots and want to impose what we feel is our right, ignore that the right should always come with the power, or duty, responsibility. So by generating these condition where we say we are free agents and we do what we please, we are transforming the singularity of a despot which was a very tiny minority in a majority which says, yes, I was conceived, I was born and now I do what I like to do. Period.

JB: That sounds like something Ortega Gassett wrote in "The Revolt of the Masses."

PS: I'm in good company.

JB: Your in good company. But I want to ask you, do you think the custodians of today's paganism, today's materialism will treat those who oppose them any more kindly than the Romans treated the Christians in the Coliseum?

PS: Well, when things get very tight and very, very...the options are becoming very limited, then the inner violence that we are carrying within ourselves is going to explode. I do not believe in the goodness of reality, in a benevolent cosmos, I have to try to gear my action to the notion that harness, and cruelty, and suffering are very, very pleasant and they are ready to take over anytime. That is why I think that the future could be very bleak, because once the resources are limited, once our mental and moral resources are becoming shallower and shallower, that's when something might be triggered, that might be horrendous.

JB: I was struck when I had a show a month or so ago with Gar Oprovitz and he was talking about the dropping of the bomb on China. And I thought...someone made the point like he did, that if democracies can drop a bomb with such insensitivity, and even fifty years later, can't even acknowledge the inhumanity of the act, what would the bad people, so called, what would the tyrants do? What would the would they feel? How would they behave if the democracies behaved in the way America did and even can't own up to it even now, it's almost too horrible to conceive what people don't even have...maybe I am overstating what we have, but you get the point I'm trying to make.

PS: Yeah, well, if think it might help to try to understand where we come from. And I don't mean that in terms of just your own experience, but the living experience. We come from three and a half billions of years of exercising what the life drive is, and this exercise up to the human and on and on, has been opportunistic. Any kind of species works at being able to survive and to multiple, and in order to do that the driving force, a portion is, to find the most opportune ways of doing that. So, the food chain is opportunistic...we come about and we have opportunity, but used to be in opportunistic in terms of population and species, so that the end works for the goodness of the nest, so on and on. We transfer a portion from the population or the species to the individual, so now we are the opportunistic person, and we are all opportunistic. It's in our blood and in our bones what we are to do and what we have been inventing. It's a glorious invention, it's low compassion, general city, and so on. So we have to try to blend, to make a combination of the opportunistic drive, the ego center mode which we are all played on, combine that with this new invention, which is the loving, the generous, the compassion, and if we are not able to find a happy combination of those two things, we are in for terrible troubles.

JB: So your saying that the problem is not economic, it's spiritual, it's fundamentally human at the deepest level.

PS: At the bottom, yes. Because, evidently, if we were angels, we would not have to cope with the ghettos, with the tragedies we are presented now in every country. Real tragedies, but we are not angels, we are humans, we are driven by very powerful drives, including the opportunistic drive, but we have been also able to come out with this incredible, astonishing thing, which is again love and compassion. So we must try to keep in our doing the present, the living and the acting present, opportunity, which is still a very important drive, and this the other side, which is the loving side. And I am afraid that some kind of the social Darwinism seems to impregnate what we call the pure capitalistic drive. So capitalism is a wonderful machine for profitivity and other things, but it needs to be injected with a compassion imperative.

JB: Yeah, and there you have the problem that the structures of capitalism, corporations by name, have as their sole objective the maximizing of only one value, and that is, return on investment.

PS: That's right.

JB: So human beings aren't in charge anymore, because by virtue of their membership inside the corporate structure they are denied the human complexity of both being opportunistic, and compassionate, and loving, and fearful, and friendly, which all of us are in varying degrees, and absolutely reduced to that one variable called "return on investment to the maximum degree."

PS: That's right. At the same time I am more optimistic than you seem to be in this. I really believe that we are beginning to realize that this pure drive that says that I'm the most intelligent, the cunning, the most able to do things, so I'm going to predomi- nate. I'm going to dominate, I'm going to generate a new kind of despotese, this drive is now being seen as for what it is, which is in need of one added dimension. The other dimension is the loving dimension.

JB: Well, certainly the insights of modern thinkers where even notions of truth have now been deconstructed and exposed as really covers for power and domination and injustice, and that I would say is a big step forward.

PS: We have to recognize that greed is ingrained again, it's part of our make-up, and that's because of this opportunistic drive that we are part of. So if we cannot re-orient our greed, make it into a greed which relates to the family of man, and the family of all life, then our greed is going to be very myopic and is not going to do us very much of anything, but a disaster.

JB: Your says that the greed or the desire for more has to be collectivized, has to be communalized.

PS: That's right.

JB: And that should really be the work of the places where we live bringing out that drive is innate, but it's inclusive of everyone and other species, as opposed to this factious individualism that, for the moment anyway, is in the driver's seat.

PS: Yeah, and we have to transcend that. Life is a transcending process, so we went from the bacterial into the human.

JB: Let's hold it right there, Paolo, we'll be back in thirty seconds. This is "We the People." We're back with "We the People," and again I want to give you an opportunity those of you who are interested in joining "We the People," the number is 800-426- 1112. Paolo, you just said that the human organism, the human being is a transcend- ing...

PS: Yes.

JB: ...and that's at the heart of what it is to be human, putting it in my words. So now let's focus that for the remaining 13 or 14 minutes on the city of the future. Having talked about all this, we now...I get a sense of the criteria for the new city. It certainly doesn't look like Oakland or Manhattan or Los Angeles.

PS: Yeah, but number one is almost a simplistic attempt to re-introduce the notion of what I call the urban condition. So you should not take it as a very powerful and very massive proposition. It's a very modest process. We have no more than a hundred people involved. The facility...

JB: You're talking now about Arcosanti, but I was also thinking about, you certainly can refer to that, but I was thinking of really the vision, since from what we just said for the last three quarters of an hour, we're running out of time here, and what certainly the positive plan, the blue print, the vision of what...we ought to be in the city and what should that city look like. It's going to be totally different from than what it is today.

PS: Yes, but, but not too different from some of, what you may call the old example of successful cities. I'm...let's say Europe, because I come from there and I have some experience there, but there has been a period in European history which has been very cruel and very bawdy, evidently, when cities, in terms of communes and so on, communities, not communes in terms of American experience, were successful and they gave us, what we call, for instance, the Renaissance and then the development from the Renaissance up to the present day. So the fact that we are gregarious, we are corporal, we need each other, indicates that the city is the thing eventually is going to be as it has been in the past.

JB: Okay, now in your city you put so many people together...

PS: Yes.

JB: take away the car...

PS: Yes.

JB:, I don't want to say pack as many people in, but that's pretty much what your doing. You want a lot of people close together. Could you just describe that. I'm sure some people have no acquaintance with what you have written in the past.

PS: Well, for instance, I had the experience of Phoenix, which is becoming now a small signs of it, but Phoenix is a structure...

JB: Phoenix, Arizona.

PS: ...Phoenix, Arizona is a structure of about 600 square miles. So it's a gigantic structure, and as East Los Angeles, it doesn't work very well. It's sluggish by necessity, because it's gigantic. It depends on logistical system which are colossal, feudal would be a good example. So just in physical terms, in terms of gravity and thermodynamics, Phoenix negates what Phoenix would like to be, which means lively, intense, joyful and so on, and on. What we need is to take Phoenix, and in a way, fold it over make it big dimensional so that we miniaturize the landscape of Phoenix, and by doing that we eliminate all the problems of the gigantic. And this is pure physics, this has nothing to do with metaphysics. This is the fact that time and space are very precious and we should use them, it really, in the best way we can.

JB: Okay, now if we...going a little further there. As you fold Phoenix into a three- dimensional city...

PS: Yes.

JB: start with 600 square miles. So what's it going to look like?

PS: Well, I would say that we would subdivide Phoenix in, let's say, ten units or whatever, and then would begin to build in those real estate that develops units which are no longer one or two floors, but they are many, many floors. Maybe up to fifty, maybe up to a hundred, because there it is very efficient, there is where frugality comes in, there's were less pollution and less waste.

JB: Okay, so people are in a building that could be fifty to a hundred stories. How long many blocks would it be?

PS: Oh, it might...depending upon the population it might be, let's say a quarter of a mile square, or whatever, that depends on the number of people and the technology you want to put in and how far you want to go into these...

JB: Okay, within that building...

PS: Yes.

JB: ...I want to see some more of that.

PS: Yeah.

JB: What would be...give me an example of how many people. Would everything they do be within that building?

PS: I would tend to say, yes, if you want to achieve a great efficiency, but naturally we don't have that experience of that kind of architecture. That's why we need laboratories which are going to investigate what that implies and slowly generate the morphology that is going to be the answer to this problem of the gigantic and the wasteful.

JB: The morphology meaning the shape?

PS: The shape, the structural shape, how the logistics are developed, how the transportation, the , and how the different functions are located, and how we can become again pedestrians.

JB: So you might have moving sidewalks. You will have to have elevators.

PS: Absolute.

JB: And you are going to do that in a way that is going to husband resources and create far less waste.

PS:Yes, and the citizen is going to be a citizen and a country person, because he or she can walk out of the city and stay humanist and be in the presence of nature, which is now impossible in the we have developed.

JB: So at the doorstep of this building...

PS: At the doorstep is there will be cultural, the wilderness, whatever is the condition, the local condition.

JB: Now...

PS: To keep in mind, we need to save good land for agriculture.

JB: Okay, you have study, you have sleeping, you have intimacy, you have working production...

PS: ...learning and play.

JB: ...celebration, ritual.

PS: Absolutely.

JB: Now, people are going to sounds like people are going to be a lot closer together than they are right now used to.

PS: Again, this goes back to the European experience where, for instance, my personal experience was in Italy that I was living in what you might call an apartment and wasn't the best apartment because we were not wealthy. But the living room was the city, because I could walk down four or five stories and be then in the middle of the city, which was offering to me that the sources of the city provides, including the theater, the library, the university, the hospital, the playground, and so on. But that was available for me pedestrian, not me for the person who has to enter this magic machine, which is the automobile, and then drive myself to those places further and further away from where I am.

JB: Now, what about this question about, Is this a hive, or? I know just, because I know you, that this is a complexity that is elegant not monotonous.

PS: Well...

JB: Could you speak to that.

PS: That brings in the skills and the ability, what you might call the intuition, the vision of the planner, or the planners, because that is not one person. That is why we need laboratories. In chemistry, in physics, in technology, we have laboratories. The laboratories is where you develop an experiment, and then you take the experiment to the stager point so through this failure you learn about the experiment. Well, we should do the same thing in urban problems which are the most complex, the most demand- ing, and the most invading problems of them all.

JB: We certainly...we have some negative experiments that are being run right now.

PS: No, but the condition for the experiment is there to be successful. If the experiment is not success, then we say that this was a failure, this was worthless, there's no learning from that so we're not going to do another failure. Next time is going to be a success. Well, that's the premise for failure, because we don't want to learn from our mistakes. We do not want to investigate what might happen that might make for a failure, so that's why the laboratory notion is very important.

JB: So, in...this is jumping a bit, but I just have to ask it. Is it your feeling that if we are in the condition of ten billion human beings...

PS: Yes.

JB: ...and in the need of forty planets, that through appropriate design...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...we could still be evolved human beings in a space and in relationship that would allow us to keep transcending in the way you described earlier?

PS: I believe so, because frugality is ultimately interiorization. To be frugal means to find, if you might call happiness, not from the holding up on ideas and holding on things of the aesthetic, so it's not that you renounce when you become frugal, you're opening yourself to more of the interior values that are fundamental for the human animal. So it's not a necessity only, it's a necessity which almost automatic becomes a vision.

JB: We certainly have models of frugality in the monastic tradition.

PS: That's right, and there is quite a bit of learning to do there.

JB: I don't think we are going to finish this topic by any means, and Paolo, how would you like to continue this discussion on Monday at the same time. Could you do that?

PS: Yeah, I could, but I don't want to impose...

JB: Your not imposing, we have just scratched the surface here.

PS: Okay.

JB: And I find it fascinating, and I know the people listening who are very quiet, but they are out there in New York City, and New Jersey, and California, and all the rest of it, I think it would be a wonderful thing if we could continue this discussion on Monday.

PS: Okay, I would like to just say very quickly that I might sound arrogant, but I am very much by limitations, so what I'm presenting are hypothetical systems, I'm not presenting truths, so that takes the edge off the arrogance you might feel.

JB: Your throwing it out as a model to be examined.

PS: Yeah.

JB: Okay, Paolo, let me thank you now. I'll be calling you again over the weekend, and we will plan another show for this Monday. At the same time? Thank you, thank you very much.

PS: Thank you, thank you, Jerry.

JB: And all of you for listening, thank you very much. And thanks Shelton, Kristin, and Christine, and Elain, Michael and Tom all for putting this show together, and certainly, Paolo Soleri, for a very fascinating presentation. So don't go away, we'll be back on Monday to continue this exploration of the cities of the future.

Transcription courtesy of Arcosanti.

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