Meeting Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri, 1973

Not long after he came up with the idea for No War Toys, Richard took a trip to visit his old high school’s graduation ceremonies.  It was a straight-forward quest for money to support No War Toys.  He had graduated four years earlier from Verde Valley School in Sedona, Arizona, and knew there were a number of wealthy parents there who might think of No War Toys as a worthy activity for a recent graduate making waves in the world, consistent with the values of the school. He was right, and came back to Los Angeles with his first real grant, from a Kentucky race horse breeder with offices in the Empire State Building.

Quite accidentally, he returned by way of Paolo Soleri’s house in Paradise Valley, about a hundred miles south of the high school.  He had asked a fellow former student’s mother for a ride back to Los Angeles and she said, “Would you mind if we visited a famous architect on our way back?”

They stopped by the architect’s home. (It was her car, after all.) It was maybe 105 degrees out when they arrived after sunset and Paolo was working late.  He was creating the earthen form for the cast of the roof of a new building at his Cosanti Foundation.

“Cosanti” come from “coa” and “anti,” Italian for “things,” and “before” or “against.”  ”You might call it the Anti-materialism Foundation,” said Soleri with a smile, “Or maybe the Foundation for Things More Important than Things.”  Richard picked up some of Soleri’s papers on his thinking at the time — summer 1965 — and took them back to Venice.

It took hard work to decipher the language Soleri was inventing as he went about exploring his idea of arcology — architecture + ecology.  But once Richard made the effort and sorted out the terminology, the clarity of thinking and the implications for change struck him as nothing less than one of those keys to the secrets of the universe he’d been pondering through his teenage years.

Over the next five years Richard kept in touch and wrote two or three short articles on Soleri and arcology for the “underground” papers in Los Angeles. In 1970, one of his longer feature articles was published in West Magazine of the Los Angeles Times Sunday Paper.  By then No War Toys was a memory, the happy face was on Time’s cover, though they had no memory of its earlier incarnation with No War Toys. Richard was a young father doing odd jobs, writing, publishing occasionally, and producing tactile sculpture, much of it destined for the hands-on science museum called the Exploratoium in San Francisco.