PLACE OF BIRTH: Philadelphia, PA
CURRENT LOCATION: Scottsdale, AZ
“One of the things the really impressed me with Paolo Soleri was that even though he was an important, international figure, he was very accessible,” says Strano. “He was a quiet man, but you could knock on his door and he would invite you in for a conversation. I’m sorry I didn’t do that more.”
“The whole time I was there, he never said a word,” says Marietta Strano as she remembers her most memorable experience with Soleri. The artist and teacher drew the architect a mere two years before his death.
“When the portrait was finished, I gave it to him and explained what it felt like to draw him,” she says. “He looked at it quietly. He wasn’t a chit-chatter, but it was very memorable for me.”
Strano enrolled in Arcosanti’s workshop program as a 27-year-old in 1973. She had been involved in Philadelphia’s environmental movement before catching word of Soleri’s ideas. “I had never gone away to school, so Arcosanti ended up being something like a college experience for me,” she says. “But the city wasn’t a textbook. It was a three-dimensional, hands-on learning experience. The fact that I could be taking humble materials and making them beautiful was incredible to me.”
Strano lived on site for seven years before leaving to teach English in China — but the thought of Soleri couldn’t escape her. While overseas, she met a man from South Africa; and over a casual conversation about architecture, she suddenly realized the international impact of Soleri’s ideas.
“The man pulled out Paolo’s designs and asked me if I knew anything about him,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it. That I could be sitting in China next to someone from South Africa, who also knew Paolo and loved his ideas.”
Strano returned to Arcosanti to contribute in the archives and continues to visit the city today. As a teacher, she frequently organizes field trips for her students to participate in activities at Arcosanti and to attempt to inspire them to live more environmentally sensitive lives.
She was incredibly moved by the workshop program and promotes it as an opportunity to learn more about sustainable living and design. “Arcosanti is very important to me, and I feel as though I have been very important to the project,” she says. “I have a Masters degree and all kind of different certificates, but I’m also an Arcologist.”
“One of my most important degrees came from Arcosanti.”