Will Bruder © Will Bruder

Will Bruder © Will Bruder


AGE: 70

Will Bruder remembers vividly the distinguished architects who visited Cosanti in the 1960s.


The first was Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, whose now-famous Habitat ’67 had just been constructed for the Montreal world fair. The housing complex shared ideas with Soleri’s own philosophies through its hyper-dense cluster of apartments that promoted social integration and interaction with the outdoors.


We spent a night that summer in the heat after work, sitting in one of the apse structures at Cosanti, listening to a discussion between Soleri and Safdie, the wonder kid,” recalls Bruder.


The following spring, another well-known figure visited Cosanti. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was a celebrated American architect and inventor, whose Montreal Biosphère was also constructed for the Expo ‘67 world fair. The dome exists today as the only environment and climate change museum in North America.

Will Bruder (left) with Paolo Soleri at the dedication of the Soleri Bridge and Plaza, 2010 © David DeGomez

Will Bruder (left) with Paolo Soleri at the dedication of the Soleri Bridge and Plaza, 2010 © David DeGomez

“Bucky Fuller was a great mind,” says Bruder. “Seeing those two geniuses sitting next to each other — to see the dialogue that they had, the animation and the energy of it — was totally outrageous. One man talking about the end of his epic, and the other man in the middle of his.”


As a 21-year-old aspiring architect, Bruder was deeply influenced by what he saw. “I was impressionable and totally mesmerized,” he says. “After leaving the workshop, I decided that Soleri was too compelling and too strong. So I went back.”


Bruder had just been married, and he and his wife drove from their wedding to Cosanti to live and work on site. In addition to contributing to the graphics and layout of Soleri’s Arcology book, Bruder spent his time at Cosanti interacting with the architect’s work.


“Paolo had great belief in the value of his ideas,” says Bruder. “He didn’t just buy silly little sketchbooks. He sketched on acid-free paper in custom books that he would make with cast-aluminum covers.”


“They were 400 pages a piece. I would borrow them at night and read them in the drafting room, returning them only after I’d read as far as I could that night.”


The arcology metaphor


After leaving Cosanti, Bruder went on to establish his own architecture practice. Many of his structures have been inspired by Soleri’s arcology ideas and emulate the principles that he learned on site.


“Paolo Soleri significantly affected and enhanced everything I believe about architecture,” he says. “I consider him one of my primal reasons for being.”


In the four-storey Henkel U.S Headquarters (2008), Bruder uses glass, terra-cotta bricks and grey Mexican plaster to blend the façade into its natural surroundings. The building has a three-acre garden on its roof, where a $25,000 bell assembly from Cosanti pays tribute to Soleri.


The Henkel building is also LEED certified, recognized by a rating system used in 150 countries for excellence in green building and design.



The Burton Barr Phoenix Central Library (1995) was constructed before LEED certification existed, but Bruder says it’s also an example of green architecture. Bruder designed the library as a tribute to Soleri, incorporating countless arcology ideas.


“That building wouldn’t have existed without Paolo,” says Bruder. “It’s a densified public place that grows from the landscape as an abstraction. It takes all of the ideas that he talked about in sustainability. It’s an arcology metaphor.”

Burton Barr Public Library with circular skylights  © Shannon Moore

Burton Barr Public Library with circular skylights © Shannon Moore

The 280,000 square foot library contains triangular shades and a copper skin on its exterior that deflect the hot sun, resulting in a reduced dependence on air conditioning inside — a major source of energy consumption for most desert buildings. A reading room on the top floor has 28 circular skylights that provide natural lighting to the interior, similarly reducing energy consumption. When solar noon hits on the summer solstice every year, light pours in through the circles and illuminates the interior.


Bruder achieved this sundial effect through careful consideration of the sun as a way to commemorate Soleri’s birthday. The library hosted the architect for his 80th birthday, where he and Bruder watched the reading room transform with light.


“You could say that Paolo was proud as hell of me, and yet there was a little bit of sadness,” says Bruder. “With all due respect to him, I think it was a little bittersweet for him being the visionary architect and not the building architect.”


“But he was one of my biggest fans, as I was his.”


Bruder continues to be greatly influenced by what he learned with Soleri at Cosanti, and credits the architect largely for his own success.


“There’s this whole passing that we have where we’re mentors to the future, and we learn from our mentors,” he says. “It’s rare to have people of that sort of genius and idea, and I was just in the right place at the right time.”