THE COMMUNITY SEEKER
PLACE OF BIRTH: Toronto, ON
CURRENT LOCATION: London, ON
Conor Denison first heard about Arcosanti from his professor in university.
“He was speaking about communities in North America that explore alternatives to suburban sprawl, and he spoke vaguely about Arcosanti,” says Denison. “I thought it might be a cool place to check out.”
After doing some research online, the urban planning student enrolled in the five-week workshop program in May 2015. Denison volunteered in construction, and as the workshop progressed, fully immersed himself in the community. “I was doing the things that the residents were doing and getting to know them personally,” he says.
When the five weeks were up, Denison decided to continue working at Arcosanti for the rest of his summer break. “It was such a great experience that I didn’t want it to end,” he says. “I wanted to prolong the experience and see what else I could get out of it.”
Denison disconnected from technology and social media and started reading more. He also made an effort to become more social and began enjoying the benefits of nature. “I was experimenting with a different type of lifestyle that allowed me to progress as a person,” he says. “I watched myself develop personally.”
When the summer ended and he returned to school, Denison felt isolated. “In university, it’s easy to feel like a small fish in a big pond,” he says. In an attempt to re-establish that sense of community, he joined a geography club on campus. “I saw it as a way to achieve that tight knit feeling” he says. “I wanted a small group to connect with again. A place where I could feel like I belong.” Though it’s not the same as living at Arcosanti, it helped him to remain social and engaged.
When he finishes his degree, Denison wants to return to Arcosanti and eventually use his education in urban planning to establish a similar community back home. “I’d love to go back, to see what it’s like to live there, to see how I can grow and to see how I can apply those concepts in my life back here,” he says. “Hopefully one day I can create a place where people can live, work, play and enjoy each other’s company in one place.”
Though he never met Soleri, Denison can appreciate what he created. He values the town as an inimitable opportunity to learn more about oneself and to connect to people on a personal and meaningful scale.
“Every person can have an impact, and I’m just one workshopper of the thousands who have been doing this for forty plus years,” says Denison. “It’s humbling to think of what one man can put into motion with the help of other people who believe.”