DETAILS: Arcosanti

Sunday, April 20, 2008

GETTING THERE: Arcosanti is 65 miles north of Phoenix, off Interstate 17 near Cordes Junction. From Washington, US Airways, Southwest and United offer nonstop flights from about $325; connecting flights start at about $240.

WHERE TO STAY: Arcosanti offers 12 guest rooms that are basic -- no TV, phone or air conditioning -- yet comfortable and fitting for the desert surroundings and eco-theme. The floors are dyed concrete, and a ceiling motif competes with the stars for artfulness. A double with shared bath starts at $40; add $10 for private bath. Breakfast included. For more space, the Sky Suite apartment has two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchenette, living room and patio area with views of the property and surrounding natural preserve. Rate of $100 a night includes breakfast for two. For longer stays, the Experience Arcosanti package includes a room with two twin beds, private bath and kitchen; extended personal tour of Arcosanti; and home visits with residents. The one-week deal costs $390; two weeks, $700. To book: 928-632-6217, Ext. 222.

To really understand life in the eco-city, Arcosanti offers one-, two- and five-week workshops that delve into arcology and allow students to work in different departments, such as the foundry and the gardens. The one-week seminar, for example, costs $485, which covers tuition, meals and accommodations.

WHERE TO EAT: The cafe serves three buffet meals a day, but don't expect canned fruit and deli meats. The dishes incorporate ingredients from the garden -- and sometimes the previous day's leftovers. Breakfast ($4.75) includes multiple varieties of granola and other cereals with soy milk or yogurt, bagels and jam, fruit, etc. Lunch ($7.95) and dinner ($7.95) are more sophisticated affairs. On the night I helped out in the kitchen, we made cheese and basil pizza (the dough was from the bakery), bean salad, pasta salad, a tofu and cabbage dish, carrot soup and more. A small bar also sells beer and wine at low prices ($3 for a Sedona microbrew, $9 for a bottle of cabernet). For cookies, breads and other sweets, hit the bakery upstairs.

Off-site, pickings are slim. Cordes Junction has a Subway, a McDonald's, a Mexican eatery and two gas station mini-marts.

WHAT TO DO: Arcosanti runs general tours every day of the week (suggested $8 donation) and specialty tours by reservation on such topics as birds, agriculture and architecture. Silt-casting workshops are held on certain dates ($20 each, $200 minimum for a group of fewer than 10 people; next date is May 17); most likely, you will walk away with a self-made plaster tile. The site also organizes special events throughout the year, such as the May 10 Sounds and Tastes of India, starring a santoor player. Dinner and concert cost $40; concert only, $20. Every Wednesday, Arcosanti creator Paolo Soleri holds a free forum with residents and visitors, discussing arcology and similar subjects.

Guests can swim in the pool, hike around the mesas and desert (the Agua Fria National Monument is nearby), shop in the gallery (heavy on the Soleri bells) and watch said bells being made weekday mornings. You can also become part of the community by simply asking, "Can I help?" That is how I ended up in the kitchen, a learning experience indeed.

While in the Phoenix area, make sure to visit Soleri's gallery Cosanti (6433 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Paradise Valley, 480-948-6145). Besides shopping for bells, you can take a self-guided tour of the gallery's surreal buildings; pick up a $1.50 guide pamphlet in the shop. Also stop by Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in Scottsdale (12621 Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., 480-860-2700, Soleri studied here in his younger days, and Wright's influences on his student are obvious. Tours vary, but the 90-minute Insights tour ($32) covers the terrain and subject matter extremely well.

INFO: Arcosanti, 928-632-7135,

-- A.S.

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