Staff quarters, SAIIER

The Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research (SAIIER) was founded on 28th February 1984, to coordinate and further develop educational research in Auroville through many experimental fields. Over the years SAIIER has evolved into an umbrella
organization that has sponsored diverse research units and nurtured several educational initiatives in Auroville.

SAIIER, with a vision to provide housing for those who offer their time and energy to its projects, initiated a process in 2015 for the same. A call was made to the architects of Auroville to come up with proposals; after a detailed process of design critique by a panel of qualified jury, imago was chosen to execute their project in the given site.

Challenged with a virgin site in heart of the Cultural Zone, surrounded by schools and amidst a forest of green, the Staff Quarters for SAIIER drew its inspiration from the mantra “simplicity” and “Tropical Modernism”, aiming for minimalism within vernacular brackets.

The cluster layout taking the underlying galaxy as a reference defined some basic parameters such as minimum distances, density, orientation and circulation. The orientation is much inspired from Golconde, in Pondicherry, with the main facades of the buildings facing north-south and tilted 15 degree away from the harsh western sun and towards the natural wind direction.

shadow form01
Vertical extrusion and horizontal puncture
shadow form02
Horizontal extrusion and vertical puncture
shadow form03
Horizontal expansion and vertical repetition
shadow form04
Rotation for shadow optimization

The floor plans aim at promoting simple lifestyles, aesthetic and functional interiors. Large overhangs allow for large openings, letting in as much fresh air and light as possible, minimizing thermal mass and furthering the inside of the apartments to breathe with the environment outside.

Ground floor plan showing two bedroom apartments
First floor plan showing one bedroom apartments
Roof plan showing green roofs and courtyards

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 should reflect minimal water runoff
and maximum percolation into the ground, waste water from the buildings will be treated and recycled and reused in landscape irrigation, rain water from the building roofs must be channeled into specially created percolation pits. Solar water heaters, provision for
photovoltaic panels for hybrid electric supply will be designed within the layouts for staying ahead of our present means.

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 large overhangs provide shade in the peak times. The roof slabs are designed to have green
terraces, which along with the function of cooling, allow the residents to cultivate their own gardens, and reduces the building’s footprint.

East and West Elevation
North and South Elevation
Section through apartments
Section through ground floor apartments and stairwell

The material choices are the vernacular edge of the design – local earth blocks, random rubble stones, recycled wood blending beautifully with the green of the surrounding.


Julien de Smedt stated: “It is not architecture that needs a vision, but society”. Auroville providing us with this magnificent vision, we can establish a change only through the search for a new life; and only through this search, free of preset boundaries and assumed
thresholds will we manifest an architecture that reflects our higher dreams and our vision of tomorrow.