SOLERI'S ARCHOLOGY: A PUT-ON
I completely disagree with Dick Pierce's enthusiastic review of ARCHOLOGY: THE CITY IN THE IMAGE OF MAN in the April issue of REASON. Soleri's philosophy on urban design and architecture is medieval and his designs are very superficial. ARCHOLOGY is a well rendered child's daydream.
I cannot understand how reviewer Pierce can endorse the philosophy Soleri attempts to construct in the first part of the book. I trudged through the whole thing and felt like I was listening to a swami, not Bucky Fuller's intellectual heir, as Pierce calls Soleri. The philosophy, an attempt to defend "miniaturization" (really compaction, in Soleri's case), is a fantasy constructed of half formed, obscure, self-evident truths (some of which are quoted in REASON) and pompous, wholly unjustifiable declarations. Statements like the following continually turned me off in the first part of the book:
If the knack for the feasible does not show the powdery nature of the practical it is because it can only reach the periphery of the real, which is where, at best, the practical stands! (pg. 7)
There are certain human and environmental values that Soleri rejects. Among these are spaciousness, privacy, economy, agility and rationality. It is too bad because the Twentieth Century is the first time in history when designs have reflected movement through space as an exciting experience, harmony with nature while living within her and the right to privacy and isolation.
If buildings were made out of India Ink, Soleri's structures would have a little credence. Unfortunately, it appears that he didn't learn anything during his year with Wright. Wright said "form and function are one." Now Soleri says that form has no relationship to anything, and functions exist barely defined. Louis Sullivan, who started it all with "form follows function" must be spinning in his grave. Page after page in part two is replete with highly seductive, mind-blowing visions of cities sailing the seas, and cities floating in space. These gigantic concepts lose their validity upon closer study. There is no way cities can be so superficially arranged that all the promenades are here, all the ugly factories there, and all the dwellings there. I would respect Soleri much more if he would somewhere in the book attempt to justify his designs. I don't believe his designs work, and I am suspicious after visiting his headquarters in Paradise Valley Arizona, a number of times, that the root of his forms is ceramics, of all things. Can he justify the forms of his structures? No. Nowhere does he even hint that they may be the result of any structural or material analysis. What he has done is draw a sketch of some ceramic form he likes and assumed that technology and construction will come up with some way to build the thing. His sketches on the bottoms of the pages give him away. There is his design process.
Soleri and Arcology are one of the most successful put-ons of the seventies. The only value I can see in Arcology is as an investment in an art book.
Los Angeles, California
NO ON ABORTION
I took particular note of the item "Progress Report: Victimless Crimes" in the section entitled Trends in the June-July issue of REASON. The comments concerning abortion laws and their recent changes which allow the killing of unborn children and the praising of this action as being "libertarian," vividly points out the tragically irrational position on this subject held by many individuals who profess to seek a free society.
Undoubtedly, a major reason for the prevalence of a pro-abortion view among Objectivists and others stems from the writings of Ayn Rand (an individual whom I consider to be the greatest intellectual of this century). She has expressed a very strong pro-abortion stand—a position which she holds as a result of a lack of scientific knowledge concerning the process of reproduction and the early stages of human life. (Ayn Rand recently stated on the program "Speaking Freely", "I am not a scientist.")
Ayn Rand has correctly indicated the essential point which must be considered in regards to abortion—the point of rights. In her article, "Of Living Death," she states: "Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being." She then contends that "An embryo has no rights." If one could avoid the scientific fact that a human embryo is an actual human being in the first stage of its life, then one could hold a pro-abortion position. But since it is a well known, and fully proven fact that an actual new human life begins at the time of the fertilization of the egg, at conception, then one must recognize that rights also belong to this actual human embryo, this actual being.
In an article entitled "Abortion: A Metaphysical Approach" (soon to be published in THE FREEMAN) I took note of Ayn Rand's position on rights contained in her brilliant article "Man's Rights." She wrote: "There are no 'rights' of special groups, there are no 'rights of farmers, of workers, of businessmen, of employees, of employers, of the old, of the young, of the unborn.' There are only The Rights of Man—rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals." One of the special groups listed is the unborn, a group of actual human beings contained in her list of other groups of actual human beings. She may today regret having listed the unborn in her statement, but that does not at all alter the correctness of what she has said.
For a more detailed discussion of the subject of abortion I would ask your readers to look for my article in an upcoming issue of THE FREEMAN. I ended the article by saying: "The unborn child is a new individual having the same rights as all other individuals, and, as with all humans, regardless of their age or station in life, possesses the most basic of all rights, the right without which all other rights would cease to exist, the right to life."
Associate Professor of Biology
Mary Washington College
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".