Apartment building
Auroville, Tamil Nadu

Until a few years ago, because the number of residents in Auroville were few and the area to be cared for vast, housing was individual and spread out. The goal then was to help in regenerating as much land as possible by people staying and working on it. Then the trend changed to building in clusters, but still by individuals. The goal changed to creating areas that were supporting a more communal lifestyle. Now there is a call for moving towards building the city as envisaged. Housing will be built and owned by the collective and assigned to individuals and families on the basis of need. All who can, will be asked to contribute generously to the housing fund.

Though the goals changed, for people coming to join and live in the Auroville community, living in free standing homes set in dense greenery has a charming pioneering times pull to it and close apartment type living considered to be too conventional. As the idea to develop Auroville into a city moves forward however, urban design calling for closer housing neighborhoods pushes us all to find ways in which to live together in smaller areas, reducing our built footprint. This project of 11 apartments had us bring in qualitative enhancements to conventional building forms to make apartment living more acceptable.

Site integration
Average summer temperatures here are above 34 degrees and keeping the interiors cool without mechanical cooling was a priority. Orientation of building is such that the east and west sun exposure is only on the smallest surface – all long surfaces face the south and the north. A paved, community road to the south and lush gardens on the north were both used as positive influences to the placement of spaces within the apartments.

Building design
One of the most revered components of a free standing house – privacy, influenced the building design and individual apartments are placed at multiple levels, creating for each a separate landing foyer. Interaction between the street & the residences has also been kept with all living room balconies facing the street while quieter areas such as the bedrooms and study face inner gardens. An open central staircase opens the building to both – the inner gardens as well as the outer street. Arati 3 encourages interaction between people without compromising on privacy or noise intrusion.

To further mitigate the issues of living close to others, sound insulation between slabs is done using tar sheets below all flooring materials to isolate, in walls, it is done by the use of vermiculite in cavity walls which is also a good heat insulating material. Windows are either staggered or inset to reduce direct sound transfer between apartment openings. Heat radiation through walls and slabs is reduced by the use of cavity walls with vermiculite infill and fly ash tiles on roof terraces.