Home > The City > Planning the Township > City Study Circle > Report - Oct 26, 2001

City Study Circle

Forum for town planning

October 26, 2001

On the 26th of October the circle held its session in Merriam Hill centre. Eight people attended.


We continued our discussion on density. Last week we touched briefly on some standards for open spaces in new development areas, and this evening we looked at the massing of buildings. (Massing: the three-dimensional expression of the amount of development on a given piece of land.) Several examples were shown as illustrations, for instance: two-story semi-detached houses with a density of 160 inhabitants per hectare, three-story row houses with 395 inh/ha, high-density walk-up five-story buildings with 678 inh/ha or 13 story buildings with 972 inh/ha.

A population of fifty thousand is proposed for Auroville out of which more than half is supposed to live in densities between 300 inh/ha to 640 inh/ha in buildings between 5 and 12 stories high.

These figures spurred us to take up the question of the size of the proposed population for Auroville. It is a sensitive topic because it challenges our notions of life quality. There are different views as to the significance of high or low densities and what each contributes that is of value.

  • One point of view is that densities should be moderate. It was stated that people don't like multi-storied buildings. It is not possible today to proceed with high-rise buildings as it was in the sixties. People act and feel differently nowadays. Densities should not be more than 100-150 inh/ha, one reason being the prevention of noise-pollution. Furthermore, one cannot judge the success of Auroville from the number of residents. High numbers of people will not automatically make a city. It is rather how people live and the quality of their activities that is important to Auroville.

  • From another point of view a high population is important, since it has the potential for a far more diversified cultural life, and the level of higher education and resources for scientific research etc. can be of another order. High densities call for more interesting urban spaces and offer larger dimensions to social life. A few tall buildings, even elevator apartment buildings, could be acceptable. However, high densities should not be suburban in character. There should be variation in size and design of buildings. It was pointed out that nobody today would plan a city in zones. The city needs to be mixed to be genuinely urban.

'Massing' involves choices in terms of open spaces, population densities and the qualities of the urban fabric.

We concluded by stressing the need to specify certain scenarios to make our choices more clear to us.


for the Study Circle team

Home > The City > Planning the Township > City Study Circle > Report - Oct 26, 2001