Space Arcology | Paolo Soleri

Arcology is a blend of the words “architecture” and “ecology,” and it’s idea is dated in 1969, when Paolo Soleri published the book Arcology: City in the Image of Man. The idea of arcology has, from the beginning, been linked with the goal of human inhabitation of outer space and is a topic that has been part of human ideals mostly presented in science fiction magazines and books since the early 20th Century. Concepts that are the principles of arcological design like complexity, miniaturization, frugality, inwardness, interdependence and ecological balance are all necessary characteristics for a space habitat, as Soleri wrote on his book.

From Arcology: City in the Image of Man

“Asteromo is an asteroid for a population of about 70,000 people. It is basically a double-skinned cylinder kept inflated by pressurization and rotation of the main axis . . . the weight of a person will vary from zero at the axis to a fraction of his earthly weight on the ground. He will be able to fly without the need of any power devices. There will be Dantesque promenades at different levels of physical prowess — from weak (center) to strong (periphery). . . . Man, standing head toward the axis of rotation, will be enveloped in a solid ecology.”

Soleri worked on these deigns partly a protest against the militarization of outer space during the Reagan presidency [see image below], and partly an extraordinary exploration of the meaning and potential of architecture in a zero-gravity environment, the designs published in the monograph Space for Peace [Cosanti Foundation, 1984], include 140 feet of scroll drawings, several framed drawings, and two models.


Above: Scientists said that at least 600 new pieces of space debris are now orbiting the Earth in two expanding clouds that could eventually ring the planet.

The drawing above shows 3 views of a single space habitat. On the left, whole rivers and landscapes flow outwards from the center, with water pooling in reservoirs at the outer extremities of the station. At bottom center is an external view. At right, the drawing show the complex interweaving and overlapping of the many surfaces and layers of the interior.

These largely hypothetical space structures would contain a variety of residential and commercial facilities and minimize individual human environmental impact. They are often portrayed as self-contained or economically self-sufficient.

The cuestion here is: Are we reaching the future proposed by Soleri with our current Space Stations? Or we’re just playing around the well known oxymoron “sustainable development” this time in the outer-space?



Will the term “space arcology” keep restricted mainly to theoretical discussions and fictional depictions?


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