That is the first line of Arcology and it's given two pages all to itself, emphasizing the difference in scale bet"This book is about miniaturization"
That is the first line of Arcology and it's given two pages all to itself, emphasizing the difference in scale between the large-format book and the small text.
Soleri's vision of arcology is usually relegated to the back corners of science fiction and the odd comment in newspaper reviews of architecture, usually indicating how far outside of the mainstream Soleri is considered to be. More attention is given to the culture at Arcosanti, where 20-somethings go to live, make bells, and work on his "urban laboratory."
As with most things, going back to the source reveals a different world than the third-hand repetitions found even in excellent reproductions. Reading Arcology for yourself, you find several interesting things.
First, the writing is enjoyable. Soleri makes comments about his "lazy Italian tongue" and his poor grammar, but he learned English at Taliesin West, serving tables and waiting on Frank Lloyd Wright. The people he learned the language from were some of the best--and most idiosyncratic--minds of the time. He never shies from complex sentences and making up words seems to be a hobby. If you only like the more modern style of short and declarative prose, you may find him tiresome, but if you are willing to dive into some nuanced language that focuses down to what it means, then he's a hoot to read.
Second, the book isn't at all about making big buildings or dehumanizing people. He starts with history--social, technological, and civil--and extrapolates to what he believes is an unavoidable step in human society.
The central argument is that all things evolve towards miniaturization, towards complexity, and towards increased duration, although the measurement of duration may be complicated. In general, he reduces these to increased interconnections between parts: cities from towns, computers from radios, and so forth. He considers this descriptive rather than prescriptive.
Given an assumption of this direction in growth, he asks how humans can increase interconnection between one another and with nature. To this he adds some values he would like to see evolve; these values are prescriptive: no poverty, live with access to and in harmony with nature, increased sense of community (although the perception of community size may change), separation of industry from living and socializing areas. The well-known arcologies come from this.
Throughout, the book is incredibly illustrated. The top half of most pages is given to illustrations and diagrams that relate to the text plus some full-page diagrams and pictures for complex topics. At the end of the book he presents 21 sample arcologies of varying size, each suited to one natural environment. These are concept diagrams, not blueprints, and lovely to look at. You can see how these captured the science fiction community's attention.
So if you - have any interest at all in arcologies, Soleri, architecture, urban design, big-system models of evolution, or an early view of how ecology can be integrated into life, - can enjoy reading some complex (but still somehow breezy and humorous) writing - want to look at pretty pictures and diagrams of (non-biological) evolutionary process and big buildings
then check it out. It's back in print and it's a fun read. Very quotable, too.
You may disagree with his urban design or his model of miniaturization, complexification, and duration; you may find some of his presentation very late-60s/early-70s (he's a bit woo-woo at times); and you may find he requires a few more leaps of faith than you're willing to take, but the book is interesting whether or not you agree with the conclusion....more