Page C1.2 . 16 November 2005                     
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    Auroville Today


    At the spiritual and geographic center of Auroville is Matrimandir, a shiny spherical building clad in circular gold-leaf plates in the middle of a large amphitheatre where Aurovilians go to meditate. On the master plan it is surrounded by four zones industrial, residential, cultural, and international that sweep outward from a circular hub.

    From the center of the master plan also radiate the "lines of force" triangular-shaped megastructures. These will be 18-story apartment buildings; the first one is still only partially built.

    The township is still very low in population density. Investment over the years has arrived in installments, and one result is poor infrastructure. There is no public transportation system, and a popular means of getting around is by motor bike.

    Architectural Experiments

    Many diverse building types in a variety of architectural styles are found dotting the landscape. They include thatched palm-leaf huts, apartment complexes that promote community living, cultural pavilions, health centers, schools, workshops, community kitchens, a visitor's center, and the Auroville Center for Urban Research, also known as the city hall. Residential building-project funds come out of residents' own pockets or are provided by the town as loans.

    For architects and builders, the freedom from restrictive regulations has encouraged an experimental approach to design. Low-tech building methods have been adopted to avoid the cost of importing expensive materials. Ferrocement is widely used, as are hand-made bricks, although this is not unusual in India.

    In the past, the technique of brick-firing was also applied to residential construction by architects such as Ray Meeker and Anupama Kundoo. An entire house, made of wet bricks, was turned into a kiln and left to smolder for a few days until its shell hardened.

    In its early days, Auroville's thatched huts were built by Australian-born John Allen. Their geometry was influenced by the work of Buckminster Fuller. Allen had studied architecture in Sydney, where he was greatly influenced by Fuller's philosophy.

    One of Allen's earliest built designs in Auroville was a geodesic dome made of bamboo. He shrugs off any discomfort of sharing space with rodents and other wildlife that live in the thatched canopies.

    Modern Houses

    To avoid such wildlife was one reason Swiss-born Aurovilian Klara Brogli chose a more modern style for the design of her house. She commissioned German architect Fabian Ostner, who relates that Brogli wanted the house to reflect her appreciation of modern design.

    But, he says, she also wanted it to incorporate "her positive experiences with a specific type of vernacular architecture of Auroville, the 'capsule' a simple and airy loft, made of natural materials, stilted and experimental in its approach and use of materials."

    Influenced by the work of Rem Koolhaas, Klara's House is a two-story structure, rectangular in plan, centered around an open yet sheltered first-floor pavilion.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    Keet huts in Fertile, a relatively isolated community tucked away in Auroville's green belt.
    Photo: Robert Such

    ArchWeek Image

    International Zone of Auroville's master plan.
    Image: Helmut Schmid

    ArchWeek Image

    Plan for Auroville's European Agora.
    Image: Helmut Schmid

    ArchWeek Image

    Tree houses in Fertile.
    Photo: Robert Such

    ArchWeek Image

    Keet house.
    Photo: Robert Such

    ArchWeek Image

    Klara's House by German architect Fabian Ostner.
    Photo: Robert Such

    ArchWeek Image

    Klara's House.
    Photo: Robert Such

    ArchWeek Image

    Klara's House.
    Photo: Robert Such


    Click on thumbnail images
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