Paulo Soleri died this week at 93. To students of the city he is legend.
Former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, featured in films and books, Soleri created "arcology" long before the eco-sensible married the environment with urban development. To Newsweek his laboratory-city-in-the-desert north of Phoenix - Arcosanti - is "the most important urban experiment undertaken in our lifetimes." Over 50,000 urban design and planning students visit it each year.
Twenty years ago I was one of them. I went to find out what he thought of cities and crime.
Soleri told me he worried about a lack of equity in cities and the social corrosion emerging from it, a sentiment recently featured in Wilkinson and Pickett's bestseller The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better.
Solari thought we need to remove cars from cities and we need more urban density (the basis of an arcology). Nowadays that's echoed everywhere in urban planning, such as MIT scholar/architect Kent Larson (check out his talk on TED.com)
"What about crime?" I asked him.
"There are very dense European cities with very low crime," he replied. "There are ways to do it right."
"What of policing an Arcology?" I asked.
He thought for a minute and smiled. "Well I guess the first thing would be to leave the guns at the door."