June 22, 2004
Paolo Soleri, the worldrenowned architect known for bridges and creative wind bells, celebrated his 85th birthday by unwrapping a street named in his honor in downtown Scottsdale.
A portion of Montecito Avenue, which lies between Goldwater Boulevard and 71st Street, had its signs changed to Via Soleri by Scottsdale city officials during a ceremony Monday to honor Soleri’s contributions to the city and state.
The festivities were near the Nordstrom parking garage, within eyesight of a marked area for a Soleridesigned pedestrian bridge that will be constructed across the Arizona Canal as part of the city’s Waterfront Project.
"We are celebrating his 85th birthday and it is also the summer solstice," Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross said. "It traditionally means renewal and planting. So perfect for today. A time for renewal in downtown."
Cosanti, Soleri’s studio off Doubletree Ranch Road near 66th Street in Paradise Valley, has been designated an Arizona historic site.
In 1970, he began creating Arcosanti, a prototype village near Cordes Junction based on his concept of "arcology," or architecture coherent with ecology. Arcosanti is a work in progress. When it is done, it will house 5,000 people, showing ways to improve urban conditions and lessen people’s impact on the environment. Soleri is also known for designing bronze and ceramic wind bells.
The Italian-born Soleri worked with Frank Lloyd Wright for a year and a half at Taliesen West and settled in Scottsdale in 1956.
Soleri wasn’t keen on the idea of talking about the street renaming or his work and instead handed out a printed statement: "History is extravagantly rich in celebratory dates made tangible by appropriate places and monuments. Those occasions and places go from the frivolous to the ponderous. In President Reagan’s wake a sort of subdued frenzy has blown through the country. Reagan had to be remembered if not worshipped on and by things and places: mountain tops, submarines, salsa, you have it. Modesty should be the name of the game to avoid a past cluttered by an inventory of trivia. Via Soleri? Where does it fall? History will tell."
Soleri spent the occasion under a tree greeting people and eating cake adorned with a chocolate bridge replicating Soleri’s design.
A letter from Soleri’s friend Lisa Scafuro started the idea for the street renaming, Manross said. Soleri said he was grateful for Scafuro’s efforts.
He said he visits Arcosanti two days a week and doesn’t have any plans of leaving Arizona.
"I’ve been here 50 years and I think I’ll die here," he said in his thick Italian accent. "I just hope it’s not tomorrow."