u_topn picture
rub_wc picture

98.03.18
Gothic Gardening

Martha Stewart it's not.

98.03.11
Pay Day

Slate's big gamble.

98.03.04
Banking on Bright Ideas

What do lost-pet ads, dentist-office ceilings, and in-flight recordings have in common?

98.02.25
ThinkQuest

Techno-savvy kids.

98.02.19
Mapping Cyberspace

Is there a "there" there?

98.02.11
Information-Free

Sometimes the Web can be its own best antidote.

98.02.04
Clintonalia

Investigating rumors of a vast conspiracy.

98.01.28
Eye Candy

Art for the interface's sake.

98.01.22
Alternating Currents

An online exhibit surveys the impact of technology on late-twentieth-century art.

98.01.15
Janeites Unite

Jane Austen's place in cyberspace.

98.01.08
Inquiring Minds

What questions are on our "most complex and sophisticated minds"?

97.12.31
Sites of the Year

A look back at our favorite sites of 1997.

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
March 25, 1998

Arcosanti, Arizona, and Celebration, Florida -- two planned communities that currently maintain Web sites showcasing ideas for changing our living environment -- represent two very different approaches to fostering community life free of suburban sprawl and its attendant problems. Both are designed to be intimate in scale and therefore walkable, both are intended to promote community interaction and cohesiveness, and both aim to preserve an attractive and healthy environment. But there, it seems, the similarities end.

Arcosanti
Whereas Arcosanti is the brainchild of Paulo Soleri, an architect who disdains commercialism and expresses his vision in terms of human-environmental holism ("The built and the living interact as organs would in a highly evolved being"), Celebration is one of the latest projects of the Disney Corporation. And whereas Arcosanti attracts mainly artists, environmentalists, and freethinkers, Celebration is pitched at those in whose dreams "old-fashioned rocking chairs line a community lake where kids frolic in a fountain; a quaint ice-creamery and fudge shop provide access to a throwback movie house, expansive homes are built with oversize porches and verandas where neighbors actually talk." Arcosanti is barely scraping by financially; Celebration is thriving.

Both communities maintain promotional Web sites that explain their animating principles and describe how one can become involved (or buy in, as the case may be). The Arcosanti site offers a daily update on the progess of various community projects, along with biographies of (and e-mail links to) current and past residents; the Celebration site paints a warm picture of its all-American small-town feel, and describes in glowing terms its state-of-the-art schools, health-care facilities, and recreation opportunities. At a separate site sponsored by Country Living magazine, Celebration is Celebration front porchshowcased in greater detail: visitors can take a "walking tour" of the waterfront shopping area, see the insides of several furnished houses, and browse recipes from a local restaurant.

Not suprisingly, both communities have inspired much critical commentary online, both positive and negative. Is Arcosanti the environmentally sustaining, close-knit community that will lead us to a better future? Or is it a farfetched notion with a narrow appeal to die-hard environmentalist-hippie types? Is Celebration a harmonious amalgamation of the latest in design theory and everything that made the traditional American town successful in the past? Or is it an ominous sign that Americans "have so despaired of government that they are ready to concede authority over whole communities to private corporations"?

Thanks to the Web, even those of us who may never see either community in person can weigh in on these questions in an informed manner. The global village, it turns out, can help influence local ones.

Discuss this Web Citation in the Digital Culture forum of Post & Riposte.


Copyright © 1998 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
Cover Atlantic Unbound The Atlantic Monthly Post & Riposte Atlantic Store Search

Click here