An amazing combination between sculpture and
architecture, the splendid expression of Auroville's chiefarchitect
Roger Anger breaks the mould of the conventional code of 'four walls
and a roof habitation'. A graduate from the classical 'Beaux Arts'
in Paris, Roger came to India in 1956. Home to him and hiscompanion
Jacqueline, the house has an incredible timelessness about itself.
A product of the 60's movement in architecture, with Roger's background
as a sculptor, painter, artist, architect, planner and above all
a visionary, this house built in the early seventies even today
is as contemporary as contemporary can be.
As I approach the gate, beyond, there appears a fantasy arising
out of the ground in the characteristic red earth of Auroville.
The path winding around, the water body, the landscaping with its
sculptures are subtly orchestrated mutually enhancing the interplay
of ideas as it culminates into the grand finale….. the abode itself.
The roof rainwater is choreographed to run an almost theatrical
course through various levels of sculptured volumes to drain into
the water pool surrounding the house.
The path forks in two directions, one leading directly into the
atelier and the other leading indirectly to the atelier! or as I
may be allowed to put it as 'the maze'. I say to the maze because
no matter how often I have visited the house, the access to the
main house always eludes me. It seems intentionally misleading into
the series of openings….(one to the guest bedroom, one to the bathroom,
one to the atelier and one to the laundry room!). On asking Roger,
I learn that the house was initially based on a different design
for another client which was then abandoned after the foundations
were laid and the columns cast. Roger salvaged the remains and redesigned
the house around the existing work, which then explained the maze.
Essentially two-bedroom cum atelier, the house is a simulacrum of
the life Roger and Jacqueline. It rejects any imitation or substitute
and makes all makeshift a crime; nothing in the house is by chance,
every detail has been carefully thought out. The interiors are on
the lines of 'rationalism' with its essential lines and clutter
free atmosphere to make beauty come alive in its integral simplicity.
Such simplicity is necessarily not 'plainness'. Inexpensive materials
and simple finishes ingeniously used with excellent taste give the
place an ambience of class. It is a confusion of our times where
style or class means necessarily indulging in velvet sofas, Italian
marble, famous paintings or priceless pieces of pots and pans….
The granite paving from the outside continues as the flooring inside
the entrance lobby with ripples of white tile (to be used extensively
in a plethora of patterns inside the house). Here already begin
glimpses of Roger's expressions in art. On continuing around the
lower level (I am reminded that the house is organic!) that comprises
of the studio and the guest bedroom, I encounter a surprise element
in the form little green pocket wedged in between the two rooms
completely obscure from the outer façade, which rebounds
hallowed light into these spaces. The studio resembles a laboratory,
a factory of ideas and concepts manifesting into paintings, sculpture
and architecture. It gives a small peek into what forms Roger's
vast repertoire as an artist.
The water body surrounding this level serves as ground for his floating
art experimentsnbesides serving primarily as an 'ant-channel'; an
absolutely-must combating the termites and insects of Auroville
forming now successfully a part of many structures in Auroville.
The spiral staircase leads to the main house that is entirely on
the upper level.The living room of black and white aesthetic opens
out from the staircase-well into a barrier-free space nestling a
study-alcove at one end. Roger's strong belief in the function and
aesthetic of low-ceilings is more than obvious in his own house
where it successfully executed at an amazingly low 2.5 metre height
for all the spaces rendering them very intimate and humane. The
flexible form of the roof has been achieved by the use of ferrocement
which also gives the ceiling an impression of a 'false ceiling'
by being able to accommodate the voids and modulations for light
and other fixtures.
The design of the serpentine window grill is exceptional, redefining
the concept of this security element employing again the innovative
use of ferrocement. Its originality gives the room its characteristic
panache. Almost all the art objects, paintings and sculpture in
the house are Roger's own creations with a few intersperses of Tanjore
paintings and south Indian bronzes. The wood and fabric chairs have
the essence of George Nakashima (of the 'Peace Table' and 'Golconde'
Part of the seating area and most of the storage and display has
been designed into built-in modules eliminating the need for obtrusive
furniture. A sculptural display partition divides the living room
from the kitchen.
The unconventional organic form of the building does not reveal
the interiors easily. What may be generally apparent in other houses
is baffling in this one. The plan seems to be of a yin-yang juxtaposition
around the staircase well. I miss the bedroom that is tucked away
behind the sliding door at the staircase landing. Then again on
entering the bedroom, the bathroom space is completely hidden until
a few more steps after which it opens out totally, embracing the
bedroom making it one. With the exception of the intimate area,
the washing and dressing area with the cleverly hidden built-in
wardrobe is one with the bedroom. The ingenious play of the white
tile pattern provides the subtle differentiation to the spaces.
Every room in the house opens out to a refreshing little balcony
or a terrace.
At every corner I notice awesome detailing.
Roger's fine eye encompassing the micro to the macro has unmistakably
swept over the entire house beautifully orchestrating it leaving
me spellbound and inspired. It moves me to think of the fervor,
of the passion dedication and commitment that prevailed in Auroville
in the early years (60's & 70's) of the pioneers who with limited
resources and manpower tried their utmost to take architecture to
a high form of imagination and creativity coupled with functionality