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Milagro Cohousing, Tucson, Arizona, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"

A work made of chromogenic print.

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  • A work made of chromogenic print.


March 2005


Joel Sternfeld
American, born 1944

About this artwork


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Photography and Media


Joel Sternfeld


Milagro Cohousing, Tucson, Arizona, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 2005


Chromogenic print


No markings recto or verso Milagro means “miracle” in Spanish. Like the hundred or so other cohousing communities created in the United States in the past fifteen years, Milagro is composed of individual homeowners who are consciously committed to living in community and in accord with ecologically sound principles. Of Milagro’s forty-three acres, only eight are used for houses. (Part of the “miracle” is the variance from local zoning regulations that it received. Normally, a maximum of one home per three acres is permitted in this part of Tucson. Suburban or outlying communities frequently employ such provisions as a means of maintaining their rural character.) The remaining thirty-five undeveloped acres of Milagro have gone into a conservation easement, open to the public as a nature reserve and protected from development. Milagro’s commitment to being in balance with nature is particularly manifest in its water harvesting methods. Believing that this resource will become increasingly scarce, all water that exits the community’s homes, including “grey water” that has been used for cooking and bathing, is recycled through a wetlands system and eventually returned to be used to irrigate plantings. Every structure is built with a steep roof, allowing rainwater to be directed through gutters and funneled down water spouts into cisterns, in an active water-harvesting system. Earthen basins and berms and the extensive use of native plants slow down and hold rainwater, so that it doesn’t run off before plants have absorbed it. The World Water Forum has predicted that sixty-six countries containing two-thirds of the world’s population will experience moderate to severe water scarcity by 2050. Whether the global water crisis is yet to come or is already present remains subject to debate, but evidence of global environmental problems continues to accumulate rapidly. In the year 2000, according to the International Red Cross, more of the world’s millions of refugees had fled their home places for environmental reasons than because of war. From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005


Image: 26.5 × 33.2 cm (10 7/16 × 13 1/8 in.); Paper: 27.9 × 35.5 cm (11 × 14 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall

Reference Number


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