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Auroville Experience

May 2009


Arati III

- in conversation with Priya Sundaravalli


“Arati III came about because I wanted to finish an existing community, using skill sets that were developed when working for real estate companies outside of Auroville,” says Aurovilian architect Shama Dalvi. “The original concept of Arati consisted of three phases of which two phases had been built. The builder had moved on to other things so I offered to complete the community, and that offer was accepted.”

This is Shama's first apartment complex in Auroville. She has gained experience in designing and supervising construction of many individual houses in Auroville, and is currently also involved in building a vacation home complex in the hill station of Yelagiri.

“What kept me away from taking up larger projects in Auroville were the endless meetings to convince the different groups and get building permissions,” says Shama. “The lack of a single client or single group to which one is answerable is also daunting. In Auroville, one is pretty much on one's own after getting building permission whereas in projects such as the one in Yelagiri, it is an interactive team work together with the client. I have involved some of the people in the Arati community as well as the new people who'd be joining in – but most decisions have to be made on my own.”

Arati III model. Photo courtsy ShamaWith a total of 12 apartments divided between two buildings, the final phase of Arati III will have single, double and three bedroom homes. “Arati III differs in two major ways from other ongoing housing projects,” says Shama. “The main difference is that apartments are individualized, each having their own design. The collective facilities are minimal. The level of interaction desired between the residents would be left to the people moving in. It is an experiment in living together while encouraging diversity and differences between people.

“The second difference is that the homes will be spacious, with floor plans ranging from 63 to 125 square metres of carpet area. Most of the people taking up the apartments want larger spaces for visiting family and home offices. It is an interesting mix of people who'll be staying in these buildings and I look forward to living in one of the apartments myself.”

The design and construction method of Arati III does not follow those of the first two phases. After thoroughly studying all options, the choice was made for a conventional building system with RCC and fired bricks. Long term maintenance has been one of the priorities besides cost effectiveness. “When I started the project, I tried to understand why people don't want to live in apartments. It was because the apartments were not individualistic enough, or that they are too close to each other and had noise issues.

“We addressed this by coming up with a flexible design where every apartment type could be personalized by the occupant.”

At present, the first of the two buildings is being constructed. Construction on the second building will start within the next two months. “A couple of people who would like to join Auroville have expressed their interest in Arati III and propose to put their money now into an apartment so that by the time they come, there is a place for them to live. The Housing Service is working on the modalities of such a scheme whereby the person will only be allowed to occupy the apartment once he or she is accepted as Newcomer. If that does not happen, the money will be returned. If the person becomes a Newcomer, the normal rules apply.”

Arati III's first building is scheduled to be ready by February 2010.

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