Arcosanti: The experimental town along the I-17

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Living in accommodations ranging from studio apartments to rustic camp-like settings, 75 people currently call Arcosanti home. (Source: Arcosanti via Facebook) Living in accommodations ranging from studio apartments to rustic camp-like settings, 75 people currently call Arcosanti home. (Source: Arcosanti via Facebook)
The Cafe at Arcosanti (Source: Arcosanti.org) The Cafe at Arcosanti (Source: Arcosanti.org)
Soleri Windbell Studios (Source: Arcosanti.org) Soleri Windbell Studios (Source: Arcosanti.org)
Arcosanti visitors' center and residence (Source: CodyR from Phoenix, Arizona, USA - Arcosanti tower on Flickr, CC BY 2.0) Arcosanti visitors' center and residence (Source: CodyR from Phoenix, Arizona, USA - Arcosanti tower on Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
Arcosanti panorama (Source: The original uploader was Nick Scottsdale at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0) Arcosanti panorama (Source: The original uploader was Nick Scottsdale at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0)
COTTONWOOD, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Along Interstate 17, about 70 miles north of Phoenix (40 miles south of Cottonwood), you'll find a desert community unlike anything you've seen.

Built in the 1970s, Arcosanti is a desert utopia, a vision of architect Paolo Soleri. His idea was to build a self-sustaining community as an alternative to urban sprawl.

The community's website describes Arcosanti as "an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability."

Living in accommodations ranging from studio apartments to rustic camp-like settings, 75 people currently call Arcosanti home.

The structures you see, reminiscent of ancient Greece, provide residents with shade and a place to gather for town events.

Mary Hoadley has lived at Arcosanti since the beginning. She, like many other students, was intrigued by Soleri's mission and his philosophy of "arcology," a combination of architecture and ecology.

"In nature, as an organism evolves it increases in complexity and it also becomes a more compact or miniaturized system. Similarly a city should function as a living system," Soleri, who died in 2013, said. "Arcology, architecture and ecology as one integral process, is capable of demonstrating positive response to the many problems of urban civilization, population, pollution, energy and natural resource depletion, food scarcity and quality of life. Arcology recognizes the necessity of the radical reorganization of the sprawling urban landscape into dense, integrated, three-dimensional cities in order to support the complex activities that sustain human culture."

But after nearly 50 years, the plan Soleri laid out is only 3 percent complete.

Hoadley says funding for new construction and repair costs on existing structures has slowed them down.

With a cafe, bakery and gallery on-site Arcosanti hosts about 35,000 tourists in its guest facilities each year. Some of the residents, ranging in age from 18 to 92, cast and sell Soleri's bronze bells to make money for the community. 

Even with Arcosanti's slow growth, Hoadley is hopeful that Soleri's ideas will catch on some day.

"That’s the way we carry out our educational mission," Hoadley said. “Which is really to get people to think about how we live on the planet and how can we live better on the planet so all people have a chance at a decent life not just the cream of the crop." 

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