MIT Press These Sketchbooks contain the seed from which sprang one of the boldest visions of our time—the giant Arcologies, those self-contained city-buildings of comparable extent in all three dimensions. Soleri's reasoned fervor and prophetic matter-of-factness can easily persuade that the realization of this vision will alone save earth from man and man from himself.
The private sketchbooks of Soleri—excerpts from which are reproduced in facsimile here—are the visual archive of his daily work, a "procedure of the bookkeeping of the mind," a record of inspiration caught in its inception. This record consists of large drawings (about 400 are included in the book) and text related to them and to more general concerns. A new order of life—Arcology—has gradually evolved through the sketchbooks, which partake of the spirit of da Vinci's notebooks in their complete integration of artistic vision and technical invention.
Most of the material presented here is taken from sketchbooks of the early 1960s and pertains to the development of a hypothetical city of 2,000,000 on a plateau and all its satellites and servicing agents. This is the "Mesa City" concept, a pre-Arcology that implicitly contains in potential form what was later realized (on paper) in Arcology: The City in the Image of Man (The MIT Press, 1969).
The material reproduced from the sketchbooks is given a new dimension through the inclusion of new text dated 1970. (This comprises in fact somewhat more than half of the book's text.) The reader is thus presented not only with the day-to-day evolvements and continuities but also with the gap of a decade in Soleri's development. The change is astonishing. As the concepts were brought to their radical conclusion, Soleri's concerns became more general and abstract at the same time that his proposals for man's proper habitation on earth have become more explicit and sure-handed, embodied in the Arcologies. The 1970 text sometimes reflects on and takes issue with that of 1960, sometimes pursues further questions independently.
One 1970 passage reads: "The use and consumption of the income of the earth and not of its capitals is a must if we want to keep open our options on the future." To many, Soleri's words will seem utopian and his drawings ephemeral fantasies. Let them become aware that Soleri was thinking deeply and fundamentally about man's duty to his environment many years before the cry "ecology" was taken up as a common cause. He remains at least as far ahead of his time now. These Sketchbooks contain the seed from which sprang one of the boldest visions of our time—the giant Arcologies, those self-contained city-buildings of comparable extent in all three dimensions.