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September 2004

Matrimandir progressing

- by Carel

A lot of progress is being made at Matrimandir. To finish the work inside the structure the Chamber will be closed for an expected three months from December onwards.


“So what is it you want to me to tell your readers?” says Gilles Guigan, one of the executives of the Matrimandir. “That we are making quick progress? We are! That we have problems with the outer skin? We do! That the work inside the structure will be ready by the end of 2005, barring unforeseen circumstances? That is our hope!” And he proceeds by rattling off an impressive list of finished work inside the structure. “What remains to be done is fixing the inner skin; incorporating the water element into each of the four pillars; creating the two marble structures besides the landings, each with a living flame; finishing the ramps; and making essential changes within the Chamber itself. With a bit of luck we should be able to complete all this by the end of 2005.” Sounds good. But what are the possible unforeseen circumstances?

Gilles scowls and points at the ramps. “As everybody knows, years ago white glass was imported for the parapets of the ramps and sent it to a factory in Calcutta to be bent into the correct shapes. But the factory got into a workers dispute and there has been a lockout ever since. We never managed to get our glass out. We are on the point of giving up hope and re-ordering the glass and having it bent somewhere else. That might give us a big delay – also as the work to match the various glass pieces is very precise.” Pointing at a stack of aluminium triangles his faces lights up. “But all problems of design and finding the correct material for the inner skin have been solved. That had been a major headache.” Gilles explains: “The skin will consist of aluminium triangles fitted with white coloured fibre-glass fabric. The earlier idea of using imported white glass has been rejected in favour of this cloth. It has been specially made for the Matrimandir in France by the Ferrari company; it is light-weight and has the quality that it will evenly spread the light that comes in from behind, so that the entire skin will have a uniform colour without patchiness. During daytime, light will mainly come through the orange-salmon coloured portholes in the outer skin. In the evenings, light will be generated by 1200 LED modules placed behind the beams. Two professors of the German University of Ulm have developed this system. Each module consists of three LEDs (blue, red and green) and each module will be individually controlled by a computer to create any colour wanted. The prototype modules are ready, and the program for the chip is being written. With the 1200 modules we can guarantee that the colour remains the same during daytime as the sun moves across the sky, as well as in the evenings. We plan to manufacture the modules here in Auroville.”

:  Work on the ramps has come to a standstill as the glass for the parapets is stuck in a factory in Calcutta

Work inside the Chamber is scheduled to start on December 1. “The eight openings in the ceiling, four for the air-conditioning and four for the artificial light points, will be closed,” says Gilles. “The central hole will be adapted for both normal and artificial lighting of the globe and serve as the air conditioning inlet. During that time we'll also adjust the entrance doors, and finish the work on the roof: position the new heliostat, and install a new, foldable crane with 500kg lift capacity. It will be used for maintenance and repairs. The crane will not be visible from the ground. At the same time we will install a new air-conditioning system to replace the present outdated one which is more than ten years old. The entire work will take an estimated six months; but we hope that the work inside the Chamber will be finished within three months. During this period the Matrimandir will be closed. Instead, the public can visit one or more of the meditation chambers inside the petals surrounding the Matrimandir. One is almost ready, the other eleven are in an very advanced state.” Gilles shows the Peace Chamber – painted an impressive deep blue, only a few details need to be finished before it can receive its first visitors. The discs on Matrimandir are removed by sections so that the skin underneath can be sandblasted and a new layer of primer and waterproofing material applied.

The work outside has met with a serious setback. The primer material, the first layer for the waterproofing of the skin, has proven to be defective and the entire waterproofing needs to be redone. Kemper, the German company who supplied the products, has taken full responsibility for the fault and will bear the costs of replacement. But the work involved is massive. All the discs have to be removed, the skin sandblasted, new primer and new waterproofing put and the discs re-installed. Says Gilles: “This work will be done in sections, so that a large part of the Matrimandir will remain covered and the building won't look naked. But it means a delay of at least a year. We don't expect the outer skin to be finished before the end of 2006. The sandblasting also delays the work to be done underneath the Matrimandir, such as installing the stones for the pathways and the marble for the pond.”

The amphitheatre is almost finished. Underneath these granite structures that mark the 16 stairs at the periphery, lights are yet to be installed.


Other works outside are progressing well. The amphitheatre is as good as finished; the last small petal is being shaped, and the first pathways have been arrayed in red Agra stone and white granite. The workshops and storerooms which were located in the future gardens have been removed, and the landscaping of the entire oval is being finalised.

While we walk around the Matrimandir, a group of visitors approaches for meditation. Says Gilles “The temporary closing of the Matrimandir at the end of this year will also mark the time when we have to decide on our visitors' policy. Personally, I believe that we'll need to limit visitors' access to the amphitheatre and perhaps the Chamber. But the 12 gardens, for example, which The Mother identified as places for concentration and experiencing different states of consciousness, may need to remain closed. How to organize all this is still a question for the future.”


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