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Client: Auroville Farewell Team (Suzie Odell and Michael Knieps) with David Nightingale

Year: 2016-2018

Location: Auroville, Tamil Nadu

Built Up Area: 120 m²

Site Area: 4 acres

Type: Funerary

Team: Mona Doctor-Pingel, Ipsita Mallick, Anshul Rathore, Nancy Agarwal, Mona Doctor-Pingel, Jean Marc ( Roof )

Structure: Manjunath B., Bangaluru

The Auroville Farewell Team approached Studio Naqshbandi in 2016 for a new Crematorium design since the present one built about 12 years ago had a structural collapse of its metal frame. Although a beautifully simple and low-cost design, rain was pouring in from the top opening and the maintenance of its eco-friendly thatch roof was proving expensive.

BRIEF: The Brief stated enlargement of the existing crematorium to accommodate greater number of attendees, better smoke extraction, protection from sun and rain for people to sit as well as easy access for the ingredients for the process of preparing the body. Rituals of flowers, incense, reading of poetry or favourite music of the departed soul is a common practice and needed to be considered in the design. The long term vision of the project was to create other facilities such as a caretaker house, a proper fence, landscaping and parking etc, on the 4 acre plot which also includes the burial grounds.

(The Auroville Farewell Team follows an efficient local technology of creating afresh a new hearth in bricks with cavities for minimum use of wood, on which the deceased body is laid and encased in a layer of mud slurry, cowdung cakes and the ceremonial ghee. This allows for the body to burn slowly and fully over 14-15 hours. However there is more smoke for a longer time with such a process.)

DESIGN : The design process began with the question: how does one manifest the metaphysical concept of going from one plane of consciousness to another? Every Aurovilian is a potential client who is missing! The crematorium is a symbol of the connection between life and death, expressed in the overall design as a sculpture of liberation rising upwards. The form exemplifies emergence from the earth, channelling the soul towards the sky in an aspiration to the higher realms of Being.

Engineer Manjunath reinforced the envisioned forms structurally through various conceptual iterations. All these were critically followed up with a design-material-cost analysis.

The design of the Copper Sheet cladding was done in a way that there is minimum wastage by a well thought-out pattern which was developed in consultation with Roof craftsman Jean Marc from Auroville.


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