Paolo Soleri—iconoclastic architect, urban theorist, philosopher, and one of the last living students of Frank Lloyd Wright—died on April 9th at 93.
Soleri was born in 1919 in Turin, Italy. In 1947 he received a Ph.D. from Turin Polytechnic, then began his apprenticeship with Wright at Taliesin West. Wright’s aesthetic influenced Soleri, but his most enduring impact was to catalyze Soleri’s opposing philosophy of urban planning. Wright’s utopian Broadacre City development concept was the apotheosis of the new automobile-centered suburbia. But to Soleri, suburbia was a horror. Soleri was deeply influenced by philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who attempted to reconcile spirituality with evolution. In de Chardin’s view, the universe’s raison d’etre was to evolve towards a state of ultimate complexity and consciousness—the “Omega Point.” Soleri applied this idea to urban theory, finding in it a personal explanation for the spirited vibrancy—what he called the “emergent consciousness”—of dense, complex urban centers. Soleri saw suburbia as diametrically opposed to this, and therefore contrary to the spirit of evolution itself.