Paolo Soleri was an Italian architect with a vision. After studying under Frank Lloyd Wright, he branched out with a unique viewpoint on where the world was headed with population explosion. The urban environments were sprawling, and he felt that society needed a shift in how these environments were being designed.
Arcosanti was the brainchild of Paolo and is truly a place where architecture meets ecology. This translates to architecture that is sustainable for the environment with passive heating and cooling on-site and a passion for making living space healthier for its inhabitants. Paolo felt there were fundamental links between the way cities were designed and depression/anxiety. He created a place that is totally walkable, with easy access to work and play spaces, so there are no boundaries between work and living. No commute means more time to do things you are passionate about. Arcosanti was a labor that came out of this passion to expand Paolo's vision. Now 15 acres of development, all are built on the model he envisioned. Arcosanti has 75 residents who live there full-time. Tours happen daily, and it is a great day trip for art enthusiasts and architects. Overnight guest accommodations are available, and most notable are the beautiful bells that are crafted on-site and sold at Cosanti Gallery in Paradise Valley.
Arcosanti pours 300 pounds per day of bronze for bells. Tourists can watch bronze pouring in the morning at different times, and there are beautiful vantage points to take in the views. The art culture at Arcosanti is unsurpassed, as visitors get exposure to Paolo's extraordinary philosophy. For the serious enthusiast, there is even a six-week workshop program to immerse oneself in the culture and contribute to a work project.
Information provided by Timothy Bell at Arcosanti
Four Peaks Mining Co. Store
Four Peaks Mine was founded in the 1800s by miners looking for gold. It is now the only commercially mined amethyst mine in the United States and the only mine that is producing gemstones. The mine is so special that it is featured on the Arizona license plate between the four peaks.
The mine cannot be visited by hikers. It sits at 7,000 feet, and you can only get in and out by helicopter. For two weekends in April and September, helicopter tours of the mine are offered, and because it is active, visitors can go in and pick amethyst from the walls themselves.
For those looking to see the wonder that is Four Peaks without the helicopter tour, there is a piece of this beautiful history in Scottsdale. The Four Peaks Mining Co. Store is located within the OdySea in the Desert Complex and is interactive, with break-open geodes that you can crack with a geode cracker. There is also a replica of the mine with 30 different minerals built into the wall to identify. Kids and adults alike can grab a miner's helmet and a clipboard to locate minerals from all over the world.
The store houses a variety of amethyst jewelry for sale, as well as a mineral garden and petrified wood in front. It is special to own amethyst from Arizona because it is mined here.
Visitors can stop in without admission, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.
Information provided by Susan Emberley at Four Peaks Mining Co. Store
Atop Camelback Mountain is a 50-year-old castle that was started by dentist Mort Copenhaver. With no experience in architecture, Mort worked off a vision he sketched on a napkin and wanted to bring to life. He bought an inexpensive plot of land that was thought to be unbuildable and went to work with himself and a two-man crew. Over 12 years, the castle came to life, utilizing rock from Camelback Mountain. This made the castle blend beautifully into its surroundings and was an architectural feature that has made it stand out. The walls are 18 to 24 inches thick, with retaining walls that are 40 feet high. The craftsmanship shows as there are no stress cracks, even after 50 years.
Robert Pazderka, the castle's third owner, bought the castle in 2014 and is currently renovating it.
"Mort was using it for fundraisers for his charitable dental work. People would come tour it on the weekends, and he raised money to help those who couldn’t afford needed dental work. My vision for the castle was to leave the front original and unchanged. I extended the deck to wrap around the front for a walk deck. I used the same stone look and kept the castle feel. We've added an auto court circle with large panes of 11-by-11-foot glass, inspired by the Louvre in Paris. You can look into the castle and see the old stone, and then windows open to a spectacular view of the city."
While Mort was eccentric in his elements of design—including a 22-person Jacuzzi, a skylight that opened and a fireplace with a waterfall in front of it—Robert has added more practical features, like double doors to open to a great room for added drama. However, the fireplace and water feature are still intact. Copenhaver will open for tours when complete.
Information provided by Robert Pazderka, owner of Copenhaver Castle