Sunday, November 30, 2008

All Souls Procession 2008

A couple of weeks ago we participated in the 17th annual All Souls Procession in Tucson, Arizona. This amazing event attracts over 10,000 people in costume for a procession to honor the dead. It is held on the streets of downtown Tucson beginning at dusk. The procession route winds through downtown for about two miles. Thousands of people participate in the procession and thousands more line the streets to watch, many of them in costume, too.

We dressed up like fluorescent moths and brought the Seussian Pedal Tractor down for the event. The pedal tractor had blacklights mounted on it so we could all glow by flocking around it. The tractor performed well although, when we went through a tunnel under a road, we needed people to hang onto the back to slow it down. It's brakes don't work very well at all. In the photo you can see Nita walking at left, Robert and myself pedaling in the back of the tractor and Shelley pedaling and steering up front. I snagged this photo off the web. I don't know who took it.

The procession finishes at an area of loading docks where a performance by Flam Chen ensued. They had two huge cranes hoist performers 80 or 90 feet up in the air. The culmination of the event is the burning of the Urn. The Urn represents the dead and the burning of it represents a release of their spirits. There was music and smoke and fire and EVERYTHING! It was great!

This is one of my favorite events, mostly because it is so inclusive and participatory. Not only do people dress up to be in the procession, they also dress up to watch the procession. We burners love to dress up and play together so this is another fun opportunity to get together. There were a lot of spectacular costumes to see. You can see our friends, Betsy and Kristin, in costume at right.

This was our third year participating in the All Souls Procession. We love it!

Thanks to Clint and Janabanana for the photos.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Arcosanti - Behind the Scenes

A group of us went on a drive in the Cadwac yesterday. Destination: Arcosanti. This is an experimental urban design project started in 1970 by Italian architect Paolo Soleri. Soleri is a visionary architect. He has designed entire cities (none of them built) with the idea to concentrate human activities in massive structures which would provide more area for nature and agriculture.

Arcosanti currently takes up about 10 acres of an 860 acre site in the high desert of central Arizona. The plan was to build a concentrated urban community as an alternative to suburban sprawl. When complete, Arcosanti is supposed to house 3000 to 5000 residents. It's only about 5 percent complete and progress has slowed to a crawl in recent years due to lack of funding. Arcosanti manages to maintain itself at a minimal level by offering tours, selling ceramic and bronze bells, and hosting performance events. They also hold regular five-week intensive Arcology workshops where you get to live and work at the site while learning. Arcology is a word Soleri made up to describe the merging of architecture and ecology.

Thanks to our friend, Cabiria, we got a special tour of the back sides of the buildings, the insides of storage rooms, construction zones, and behind the scenes at the amphitheater. Maggie, another resident, gave us a special agricultural tour of the greenhouses, gardens, fields, chicken coops, and the funky experimental structures built over the years by the residents. We had a picnic down in camp and were joined by many of the residents who weren't working. The weather was beautiful and we had a wonderful and relaxing visit to a unique and interesting place.

There are several residents who live in the completed structures as well as in an area called "camp" down below the main site. Camp is an earthy, more organically grown area that was where everyone lived when building began on the bluff up above. Camp has fields, gardens, greenhouses, and various cubical residences made out of concrete slabs. There are also some nice indoor and outdoor gathering spaces.

Soleri's designs are sculpturally beautiful and the concept of combining ecology and architecture is a great idea. One of the potential problems I see is that there are a lot of people, maybe most people, who would not enjoy living in identical housing units crammed tightly together in huge multi-story structures. I believe human desires for intimate contact with nature, personal control over the appearance of their dwellings, and the desire for privacy and outdoor living spaces need more consideration when designing residential structures. For example, the feeling in "camp" is more vital and human than the feeling in the structures of Arcosanti which have a commercial feel to them.

Soleri is 89 years old. Who knows what will happen to the place when he is gone. It would be nice if it could be opened up for more creative participation and attract the funding needed to complete it in some form. For now, we will enjoy visiting an interesting place and fun people.

See more photos of our visit.