…They hang like ornaments from structures that might be described as McMansions Hobbit-style. Starting price for most of the huge ones that dangle as ceiling jewelry is in the thousands. These bells are what create Cosanti’s reputation for many Americans, who travel to this bell central.
Studio of Visionary Paolo Soleri
For Europeans and other global citizens, especially architects, it is the history of Cosanti and the ideas of its founder, Paolo Soleri that are the bigger draw.
Soleri, who first came to Scottsdale in the 1940’s to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West, is for many the granddaddy of synchronizing architecture and nature with an ever vigilant eye on sustainability. In his laboratory here at Cosanti and also at Arcosanti further in the desert, Soleri envisioned a roadmap for urban development that would keep as much of the natural world pristine, creating social spaces on its sidelines.
Even if you know nothing of this history and the import of Soleri’s voice to dialogues about sustainability Cosanti is interesting in its own right. Soleri, a ceramicist, created concrete pours for his building designs giving them interesting geometries long before the likes of Frank Gehry’s signature styles became de rigeur. Time your visit right and you also get to watch the dramatic pours of fire red molten bronze into forms that later become the bells that fund the Cosanti non-profit foundation’s work.
Alas, this writer’s return visit to Cosanti was not well-timed—arriving on a Sunday when only a skeleton crew remains and not much is going on. Later, we were able to catch up with Roger Tomalty, who has been the director of Cosanti’s operation since Paolo Soleri passed away in 2013.
Tomalty says, “The mission is the same. We are a non-profit educational foundation first and foremost. Our core values and what we teach remains—having a light footprint, resourcefulness, ecological accountability and being mindful of nature.
“Soleri’s unique vision was of seeing cities as islands of development in a sea of nature, rather than islands of nature in a sea of development. Think of Central Park in New York City. His idea is the opposite of that, with the buildings in the center and the larger park surrounding the development. Soleri talked about miniaturizing the built environment also as a means to elevate the human condition – allowing us better access to each other and the institutions of the city.”
Expanding Soleri Designs into Jewelry and More
On August 31, 2017 Cosanti will be launching a jewelry line using Paolo Soleri designs – earrings, cufflinks, bracelets, etc. Silk scarves with Soleri designs will soon follow.
The official launch will be with a black tie type event at Cosanti, which is also a sometimes venue for weddings and similar catered events.
Visitors will also soon find more ceramics- tiles, olive oil vessels, espresso cups, etc.‑which in turn means more chances to see the firings from their three kilns.
Tip: Plan at least an hour to properly tour Cosanti. Many will want to block out two hours. If you are planning to visit both Taliesin West and Cosanti in the same day, make sure that you block out at least two hours for Cosanti and travel time in between.
9 – 5 Monday thru Saturday; pours are currently done three times/weekday
11 – 5 Sundays
Starting October 1, 2017 a daily tour will be held at 11 AM, in addition to the tours by reservation currently available.
The tours are between one and 1 ½ hours long- depending on the number of questions and the interests of people on the tour.
October 14, 2017 to early 2018, SMOCA (Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art) will be unveiling its most comprehensive exhibit on Paolo Soleri —including many of Soleri’s architectural models and drawings. Cosanti will be hosting a number of events to coincide with this exhibit, including tours of both the museum and Cosanti’s dome house and bronze pours.