The site where the architectural project is happening is the site through which pass my trip. The trip starts in Brussels, Belgium, city where I resided for 10 years and where I practice as an architect for 4 years.
From Brussels, the intended voyage passes through the following countries: Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, United Arab Emirates and India.
Auroville is the final destination of the travel, where the construction of the balloon may occur. This city which I have never been was chosen mainly because it constitutes for me a source of inspiration, and because it is located in a distant context and in a culture that is unknown to me. Auroville consitutes a background to the project, as well as a pretext and a context to the project.
Auroville – City of Dawn – is a universal experimental city project that started in the 60s. While at first it was a vast desert plateau of 20 km, now the Auroville environment looks like a small town in a large forest. The project was conceived by Mira Alfassa, called “The Mother” and inspired by the Indian philosopher and yogi Sri Aurobino whose The Mother received teachings for many years. The first public message that was transmitted on the city was the following:
« Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are
able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all
nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity. »
The inauguration in February 1968 which was sent this message constituted a special event: 124 nations were represented by a delegation of a man and a woman. Each delegation should deposited a handful of their native soil into a special Urn at the center of an amphitheater. In the same urn was laid “the Auroville Charter”.
Between the initial project plan of the city – called the “Galaxy Plan” – and today only a few elements were made. Among these, the Matrimandir (“temple of the mother” in Sanskrit) and the Unity Park that surrounds the building. The Matrimandir is a very special project in several aspects. It was built entirely without construction machine, what means almost “by hand”. The construction lasted 37 years (1971-2008). Designed by the French architect Roger Anger, the volume appears as a large sphere placed on the ground and covered with golden cupolas. The Matrimandir is a place mainly dedicated to meditation and contains meditation rooms.
Today, Auroville has about 2300 inhabitants. The city is structured according to a plan divided into 4 areas articulated by a central area. The city is run by a foundation. The Auroville Foundation is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development through an act of the Indian Parliament. The Foundation is composed of three entities: the Residents of Auroville (Residents Assembly), the Governing Board and the International Advisory Council. The HRD ministry appoints the seven members of the Governing Board and the five members of the International Advisory Council.
The economic system of the city works as follows: Instead of paper and coin currency, residents are given account numbers to connect to their central account. Residents of Auroville are expected to contribute a monthly contribution to the community. They are asked to help the community whenever possible by work, money, or kind.
Although the Government of India owns and manages the Auroville Foundation, it only finances a small part of Auroville’s budget, which is mainly formed by contributions from Auroville’s commercial units which contribute 33% of their profits to Auroville’s Central Fund, and by donations. There are guest houses, building construction units, information technology, small and medium scale businesses, producing and re-selling items such as handmade paper for stationery items, as well as producing its well-known incense sticks, which can be bought in Auroville’s own shop in Puducherry, or are sold around India and abroad. Each of these units contributes a considerable part of their profits to the township. Over 5,000 people, mostly from the nearby localities, are employed in various sections and units of Auroville.
Other activities include afforestation, organic agriculture, basic educational research, health care, village development, appropriate technology, town planning, water table management, cultural activities and community services.