Which came first, the architect or the cosmologist? In Soleri’s case the question is moot. His designs for urban planning are part and parcel of a vision of universal process which he outlines in this book. Positing Man as a key station on the “bridge between matter and spirit”, Soleri proposes self-sufficient cities, called arcologies, which exist to foster the creative imperative of the human condition. He sees the universe evolving from an initial state of dispersion and randomness to a unified Omega point, where matter is subsumed into a divine unity, where everything that is and was will be resurrected in a solid-state matrix of significance and memory — God.
But Soleri’s God is not the lowering patriarch of the Bible. His God is one which must be created through conscious life, a god which exists not at the beginning of time but at the end. As conscious beings it is our responsibility to foster the creation of God from within ourselves, by aligning our lives with the functional thrust of evolution. To Soleri, evolution is a progression of increasing complexity, consciousness and interconnection, whereby matter bootstraps its way into new modes of becoming.
It is interestesting to read Soleri in tandem with de Chardin, whose vision shares certain parallels. But where de Charin sees cosmic evolution proceding almost inevitably along a natural axis, Soleri emphasizes the role of Humanity in making or breaking the Omega state. We can drop the ball, individually and collectively, and shirk our birthright as God-makers. The result is not punishment in Hell but perhaps dissipation into matter, a return to dispersion and determinism.
Also quite notably, Soleri has put his rather bold ideas into practice. Since 1970 he has been overseeing the growth of Arcosanti — a community in Arizona where his arcological theories can be tested and implemented. It seems to be a viable community; whether or not it truly embodies Soleri’s ideas is difficult to say from the outside. Perhaps participation in one of their 5-week architectural programs would help answer this question… [New York: Anchor Books]