Arcosanti Morning and the Solar Heating Tube

Continuing my series of photos from our overnight stay at Arcosanti in Cordes Junction, Arizona in March 2010.

After a great night’s sleep, I awoke early and decided to take the camera out on a morning hike.  Our guest quarters faced out onto a deep ravine, into which a hiking trail descended.  I set off on my hike, stopping often to get shots of the property in the early morning sun.  As I was walking along the gravel road on the back of the property, I would occasionally come across golf balls that had been left in the most unlikely spots:

I’m not sure if these were some new type of trail marker or if someone was using this rock as a golf tee, but it was pretty whimsical.

After I returned from my hike, Andy had finally woken up, so we showered and dressed and headed up to the main building for breakfast, which was included in the $50/night price of our guest room.  The sidewalk leading up to the building entrance was lined with a selection of the Solari bells which are hand-crafted and produced at Arcosanti by the residents as a way of helping fund the operations there:

The bells are quite heavy and it takes a lot of breeze to make the larger ones “ring”, but they are quite beautiful and are collectors’ items.  Also outside the main building were various fruit trees that are grown on the property to provide fresh fruit for the residents.  These were in full bloom while we were there, providing some beautiful spring color to contrast with the brown and green of the desert landscape:

Inside the main building’s cafeteria, we found a tempting selection of breakfast foods on the all-you-can-eat buffet.  It was completely self-serve, and included bagels and toast with various toppings (cream cheese, peanut butter, butter, jam, honey); various kinds of cereal, including the best granola I’ve ever tasted, with various types of milk (skim, almond, soy, rice); fresh fruits; boiled eggs; juice, tea, coffee.  After the meal was over, everyone picks up their own dishes and takes them back to the kitchen and puts them into the proper bins (plates in one, silverware in another, cups in a third, paper in the trash, etc).  Great way to keep the overhead low!

You can’t beat the view from the cafeteria, especially when it’s framed by the circular shaped doorways and windows that Arcosanti is known for.  They are also known for their “green” living.  Notice in the photo above the orange tube hanging from the ceiling.  This tube extends all the way up to the ceiling a couple of floors above.  At the top of the tube is a skylight and a fan.  During the winter the fan blows the solar-heated air down the tube into the cafeteria to provide heat to the lower floor.  During the summer, the skylight is whitewashed to reflect the sunlight away from the building.

I think it’s a brilliant idea, besides the fact that the tube itself is pretty cool to look at.  It makes a great artistic statement when you enter the building, where each floor has the open atrium space in the middle that allows the air flow to move up and down the tube as needed.  The concrete structure has a beautiful simplicity to it, with the unpainted surfaces providing needed insulation to keep the space as cool as possible in the summertime.  The bells hanging throughout the space just add a sort of peaceful Zen-like ambience that invites visitors to hang out for awhile.

These photos were all shot with a Nikon D5000 dSLR, and processed in Paintshop Pro X3.  I’ll have more photos to share in the coming days.  In the meantime, you can view the entire Arcosanti series on my Flickr page, in the set titled “Arcosanti – March 2010“.

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