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November 01


Building Invocation and Arati

- by Tineke


Building denser areas with row houses and apartments instead of individual mansions is the emerging trend in the Residential Zone. Sumark (a unit under Auroville Fund) recently finished the apartment building "Invocation II," and is constructing additional apartments in Arati. Tineke talks to architect and builder Rolf and project holder Francis.


The completed Invocation building

Invocation is located in the Residential Zone, just adjacent the large water tower. The building, which has fourteen apartments, looks quite western with its common entrances, doorbells and mailboxes with the names of the inhabitants on them. In spring 2001 Invocation's extension, popularly called Invocation II, was finished. Five of the six apartments are meanwhile occupied by Aurovilians, one by a long-term guest. In Arati, Sumark is building 16 two-bedroom apartments. "They are assets of Auroville. After completion, they will be allocated to interested Aurovilians and Newcomers against a donation to Auroville," says Rolf. "If someone expresses an interest during the construction phase, we will take the suggestions about materials and colours into account, otherwise the apartments are as they come." The second phase of Arati is different from phase I - which consists of six split-level row houses - due to the preference of people interested in housing in this area.

The drawing of the new Arati layout

Both Rolf and Francis believe that the trend of building individual houses with large gardens is something of the past. The disadvantage of a big individual house is the cost of maintenance, safety, and the time and energy you spend on keeping it up. "Like in my case: when I go out, I have to put someone in," says Francis. "But I would advise families with children to live in a house with a garden," says Rolf.

The advantage of living in an apartment is that you do not need much outside help. Life can be much simpler. But for Aurovilians it is quite a change from living individualistically. Though caring for your neighbours is a must, in an apartment building anonymity can be secured by simply removing your nameplate from the mailbox.

Water problems

The main challenge for the development of the Residential Zone is making people conscious of their water usage. Rolf and Francis see the availability of water as the next big problem. Recently a new well was dug in Courage. At the time of drilling it gave 20,000 litres per hour. But recently the output dropped to 4000 litres due to the two consecutive monsoon failures that affected the water table in Auroville and the region. The new well near Kailash is also not expected to be a big provider. The present elephant water tank near Prayathna supplies water to the communities of Arati, Invocation, Surrender, Prarthna, Prayathna, Sailam and a to two new communities under construction, Creativity and the Line of Force. While the average water use per person in Europe is approx. 100 litres per day, here in the tropics in Auroville some people use at least eight times as much, gardens being the main guzzlers. Unless another good water source in the near future is found, or the Aurovilians start limiting their water usage consciously, the development in the city area will have to come to a halt.

Some communities are considering building underground rainwater catchment tanks, which would be filled during the monsoons. But according to Rolf and Francis, those tanks are not only expensive to build, but they also would not be able to provide water for a long enough period of time. A proper water assessment study of the whole Auroville region is being made, and its results are eagerly expected. Unless we all become extremely aware of how we use our water, we might be in for big trouble very soon. Do we really want to turn our lush and green Auroville back into a desert?

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