Architecture in Auroville
The architecture in Auroville is a milieu of many different styles, ideas and a variety of techniques. It aims to solve crucial problems faced on a global scale by practicing sustainable methods of building, while maintaining the dream of the Mother.
The city itself (spread across 20 sq. kms) is laid out in the form of a galaxy, and comprises of four zones, namely the Residential, Industrial, International and Cultural - each with its own specific purpose. During Auroville’s ‘pioneering stage’, in the first decade of its creation, many vernacular building materials such as casuarina, keet, palm leaf and thatch were adopted, the durability of which can be seen in the ‘Aspiration’ settlement. When the galaxy plan was created, the location of Auroville had not been decided, and thus factors such as topography, climate, and existing settlements had not been taken into account. Thus, these are also a current focus.
With regard to Auroville’s Indian context, it attempts to bridge the gap between the past and the future of Indian architecture through the exploration of traditional house types, technologies and materiality, again, while maintaining the spiritual context that the Mother emphasised. Over the last decade and a half, serious research into sustainable design has been conducted, resulting in advances with ferrocement technology and compressed earth blocks (rammed earth) for load bearing.
One of the most famous architectural structures in Auroville is the Matrimandir, renowned for its unconventional and unique design. In addition to this, the Matrimandir is also the centre of the Auroville galaxy, from which its “arms” protrude. It is otherwise known as the “Soul of the City” and houses the twelve virtues that the Mother preached.
Auroville is home to a multitude of architects, each with their own visions and insights, building on the shoulders of those before them. Although it is a small town, it hosts many different types of building techniques, research for which is carried out in spaces such as the Earth Institute.
Overall, experimentation is a large theme found in the architecture in Auroville, with more and more architects flooding in to take part in the city’s growth. Its various aspects concentrate on the integration of the buildings with their surroundings, cost-efficacy, and climate responsivity.
Most cities in India are unplanned urban sprawls, which spread with increase in population and lack of space. However, there are a few, such as Chandigarh, which were planned post independence and have been renowned for their urban design. Chandigarh in particular was also designed by a French architect, much like Auroville. In 2015, it was deemed “one of the few master-planned cities in the world to have succeeded in terms of combining monumental architecture, cultural growth and modernization”, something Auroville hopes to achieve in the near future.