(From an article based on an interview with
Peter Anderschitz on the design of an urban cluster in Auroville)
"A building language was developed, based on certain criteria
that would repeat themselves again and again, responding to the
need for close living, yet fulfilling the more individual needs.."
The real struggle in any search for new patterns
of urbanisation is to derive a relevant concept of habitation. The
solution quite clearly lies in collectivity. What is not so clear
is how to introduce new patterns with smooth transitions, so they
can work in co-existence with the older ones.
To study changing patterns in relatively new
township experiments like Auroville is a challenge. Especially as
the town was conceived by the Mother with the intention of presenting
the ideal township rooted in collective living. In her own words:
"A new creation beginning with a model town and ending with
a perfect world."
Auroville is located in Tamil Nadu, some 10km
north of the union territory of Pondicherry. This 1968 galaxy concept
of town planning was visualised by French architect Roger Anger
and his team, encapsulating an anticipated population of 50,000
in an area approximately 2.5km in diameter.
Accommodated in a dynamic spiraling movement
are four distinct zones - the residential, industrial, cultural
and international. As directed by the Mother, they evolve harmoniously
from one to another around the centre, containing Matrimandir, the
soul of Auroville, and its 12 radiating gardens. The central ring
road or crown, along which all services are to be arranged, is to
be the main distributor, the pulse.
Encircling the township, as a protective barrier
against dust, noise and external interferences, is an extensive
dense forest, the green belt.
The guidelines for the high-density residential
development were planned in the form of several curvilinear structural
outlines; 500-600m stretches of housing with varying densities in
a sloping arrangement, dropping gradually uniformly from 18 floors
at the higher end to around three. Whether this idea is applicable
today in Auroville is debatable, though the zoning and circulation
structure are well recognised.
That living patterns will swing variously during
the adjustment to a growing number of inhabitants and newer definitions
of their aspirations is well anticipated. First living experiments
of community settlements had to be conducted at the outskirts of
the township in order to study them under the test of time. Through
such a series of designs, more appropriate solutions for actual
execution in the model town are to be evolved. As it is, all the
land belonged to Auroville and to no-one in particular.
The early community engaged in extremely close living, sharing almost
every space and facility, with little consideration for individual
needs. Auroville now experiences a growing peripheral, sub-urban
development of highly individualistic lifestyles. More and more
individuals have opted out of the collectives into their own, self-expressionistic
houses; not finding answers in the vacuum of the much awaited organised
The individualised trend towards housing, with
houses cropping up haphazardly, was clearly undesirable and detrimental
to the development of the town. Housing solutions had to be directed
towards more relevant community living.
"…A new statement towards the urban pattern of built up space.."
The first effort towards building a more 'urban'
settlement, Samasti, now stands
as a new statement in Auroville towards the urban pattern of built-up
space. A positive outcome is that it shows what could be a tangible
massing, apart from details and aesthetics in terms of collective
living and going forward towards higher density. In that sense it
is a stimulant, an inspiration..
In another sense, being very spacious for such
few people, it doesn't hold much meaning for the city to come. Then
again it was a special case of artistes, each needing their own
work and expression spaces, integrated within their living areas.
It was not meant to stand as a model for a standard of living, which
is rather high here.
As a stepping-stone, then, and the next step?
To move further and further away from readymade architecture, towards
a building system that involves more actively its users designing
their own spaces. To find appropriate organisational patterns… particularly,
financial… making the architect, planner and contractor act as guides,
advisors and consultants.
Otherwise it gets just like the wild developments in the city, where
the one with the biggest elbow shovels his own way, blocking other
developments. It blocks the growth of a common building language
based on certain materials and patterns for built-up and open spaces,
for concept of a growing house and city. Away from the rigid planning
approach with the architect, the all powerful visionary..
Instead merely drafting the main outlines regarding
spaces, their inter linking communications… leaving in addition
to the bare minimum spaces that are informal play-fields for self-expression.
Do it yourself is what's been happening at Auroville, but not in
response to neighbours and a vision of the larger whole, creating
only problems by getting into shells and lacking communication.
One pays for such a spread out infrastructure, and now there is
an urgent need to organise the guidelines for the development and
growth of community living, and to concentrate on the very meaning
of Auroville, find its centre, and grow from there.