Italian architect Paolo Soleri became famous for Arcosanti, the urban laboratory he built in the Arizona desert in the early 1970s. His first major design, however, was a bridge for an exhibition in the late 1940s. It was never constructed. Other bridge concepts also were never realized.
Now, at the age of 90, Soleri might finally get to see one of his bridges built.
Work is expected to begin in January on a 100-foot-long pedestrian bridge Soleri designed, in collaboration with Douglas Architects, for Scottsdale, a Phoenix suburb located a short drive from the architect’s longtime home in Paradise Valley. The bridge will cross a canal in the downtown area, connecting stores and condominiums on the north to a cluster of shops and restaurants on the south. Two brushed-steel pylons that will shoot up 64 feet will act as a sundial, creating a light dagger on the bridge deck that will mark solar events such as the equinox.
The project also includes a 22,000-square-foot plaza that will feature a hitching post and Soleri-designed bells hanging from 22-foot pylons. Benches will line a shallow circular stream.
"Paolo has been quite well known for his bridge designs, but he was not fortunate enough to have one constructed," explains Roger Tomalty, who has collaborated with Soleri for more than 40 years and is working on the Scottsdale commission. While it’s only a pedestrian bridge, Tomalty says it will be a “very visible project with high exposure” due to its location in downtown Scottsdale.
The project, officially called the Paolo Soleri Bridge and Plaza, is expected to cost $3.2 million. The city is contributing $1.7 million. The Scottsdale Public Art program, part of a nonprofit organization contracted by the city to manage community art, is providing an additional $1 million. The final $500,000 came from private donors, the Starwood Capital Group and Golub & Company, which are jointly developing property along the Scottsdale waterfront.
Donna Isaac, the lead coordinator for the project for Scottsdale Public Art, says interest in a Soleri project was voiced long ago, while the city was drawing up it 1990 master plan. “Our team felt a Soleri bridge would represent the many unique aspect of our culture, history and environment,” she says. “Paolo leaves a legacy for Scottsdale, and I think there was a desire to acknowledge that. There has been strong support for a Soleri masterwork.”