Perching atop a hill high in the Arizona desert, the "urban laboratory" of Arcosanti looks more like something from Star Wars than an actual city. Founded by architect Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti began to take shape in 1970, designed to be a densely-populated eco-city for 5,000 people. However, despite these grand ideas only 7,000 people have lived in the city in the last 40 years, with the current permanent population dwindled to just 56. Over 25,000 people visit the city each year, though many comment that it seems more like a city of the past — hardly befitting Soleri's futurist ambitions.

The 92-year-old Soleri retired from his position as president of the Cosanti Foundation last year, passing the torch to Jeff Stein, a former Dean of Boston Architectural College. However, Stein is faced with a tough decision on how Arcosanti should be developed — with a total budget of $1 million per year, his options are limited. In an article, The New York Times meets with some of Arcosanti's residents and looks to the next 40 years as they try to determine what the project should become.