Re: arcology & permaculture (was generic density increase / calendar control)

Date: Mon Jan 01 2001 - 09:44:39 MST

In a message dated 12/31/00 9:54:26 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

> Since the topic of arcology has come up, I can't resist mentioning that
> Permaculture principles are part of the design process.
> Here's a link to Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri's project in Arizona.
> Permaculture page:
> Experimental greenhouse
> Arcosanti Virtual Tour

My first near-adult ambition was to be an architect and seeing Soleri's great
big beautiful book about his ideas in the late 60s (or was it the very early
70s?) for the first time was one of the great aesthetic experiences of my
life. However, I've come to a position of deep skepticism about the basic
premise of the arcology since then.

The fundamental issue I take with Soleri's conception of an arcology is its
reliance on central planning and a priori decisions about over-all urban
design. At one end of a spectrum of how an arcology might actually be built,
we see a desire to impose structure on urban life at every level from a
city's inception. It is possible to imagine a less pre-determined and more
organic implementation, in which the basic structure of an arcology is laid
out to provide a mechanical and infrastructure grid and then fine-scale
development is allowed to happen on an emergent basis (but, ironically, this
would require even more prior engineering work than a more fully planned
arcology). However, in either case, the basic notion of an arcology calls
for a level of up-front planning that seems inconsistent with the kind of
open-ended evolutionary flexibility that I've come to see as the most healthy
fundamental value for urban life.

Beyond this, the problem of capital concentration seems to make Soleri's most
ambitious ideas impractical in any but a world completely freed from the
economics of scarcity by full-blown Drexlerian nanotech. Working as I do now
in the world of very large scale engineering and construction, I fear the
kind of social structure required to support the concentration of capital
required to undertake a "real" arcology as envisioned by Soleri. A few
hundred million dollars seems to be a practical upper limit on the amount of
money that can be sunk into development of any engineering project by private
interests. With current and near-term technology, this seems to be far short
of what would be required to finance the building of the infrastructural and
civil/structural "core" of a working arcology of any meaningful size (even a
"village" of a hundred thousand or so, much less a real city . . .)

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
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        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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