Aspiring to establish a new order in its functioning, Auroville provides a base for freedom and its expression in design, by integration rather than exclusion. In that light, the design of the buildings aims at suggesting a sustainable method for improvement of our modern way of life, in terms of its global consequences, as well as for a mediation of spaces fusing traditional and modern lifestyle through the adaptation of vernacular building features, translated into the sculptural aspects of contemporary architecture.
The use of modern materials such as Ferro-cement is consistent with the sculptural approach and its shape and form is derived from traditional Chettinad architecture, with its large overhangs, sloped roofs, large covered terraces and South Indian temple architecture with its extended sculptural staircases and high towers. These parallelisms have an impact on the sustainability of these buildings and create climatically appropriate features from within its adapted architectural language.
As part of an existing community of Auroville, the two buildings’ mindful placement with respect to the original master plan allows an harmonious, sensible integration into the existing layout . Simultaneously, maximum protection and little changes to the existing green was ensured during the site marking. The buildings are positioned north of a green corridor, a lush green forest providing a beautiful backdrop to their sculptural appeal.
Aiming at a collective life, the design provides shared spaces and facilities, while at the same time responding to the individual resident’s needs. Coherent with this ideology, there are no typical floor plans in the design of these buildings; each floor layout is designed to respond intimately to the specific requirements of each person involved and in collaboration with it’s final users, creating a complimenting process to the dynamism of the building mass.
Shared spaces such as laundry and storage are incorporated into the design, increasing the necessity for a harmonious united life and increasing the sense of communal sharing. In the same vein of an experiment in collective living, facilities such as solar water heaters, photovoltaic panels and water filters were designed to be used collectively.
As Auroville aims at the manifestation of a new social living through an elevated individual consciousness, it is inevitable that environmental impact is one of the primary concerns for projects within this city. The landscape reflects minimal water runoff and maximum percolation into the ground, waste water from the buildings is treated and recycled and reused in landscape irrigation, rain water from the building roofs is channeled into specially created percolation pits. Conscious waste management is another key aspect of the communal life in Auroville, and a small building near the entrance of the community, designed and built for that purpose works towards that goal. Solar water heaters replace conventional electric ones and photovoltaic panels for hybrid electric supply have been installed with the far-sighted goal of one day living off purely renewable resources of energy.
With that intention of a future of renewable energy, the buildings have been designed to minimize largely the need for artificial lighting and cooling. Large windows in the North allow ample light to stream into the rooms while the Ferro-cement features provide thermal insulation by creating air pockets. The roof slabs of both buildings are designed to have green terraces, which along with the function of cooling, allow the residents to cultivate their own gardens. Planter boxes surround the terraces of the various apartments, filtering the air flowing in from the outside, replenishing it with oxygen. Low-flush commodes (1 and 2 litre) have been installed in the toilets, reducing largely the output of water. Inverted slabs between floors are filled with burnt rice husk and provide ample insulation, both against heat as well as noise.
Project status: completed in February 2013
Builders: Mahasaraswati Constructions, Auroville