Crownways Project Presentation
Last Updated: October 21, 2008
'ROAD OR NO ROAD THAT IS THE QUESTION'
The Crownways process emerged both as a counterbalance to what was perceived to be
an attitude of inevitability in some quarters of Auroville regarding the construction of the
Crown Road, as well as being an attempt to consolidate some of the ideas and approaches
which have emerged over the last few years within the dreamcatcher forum, and which in
their turn aim to better express the ideals of Auroville within it's planning and
The study focussed upon the area between Solar Kitchen and College Guest House, since
we felt that if an alternative to developing the Crown Road was to be seriously considered
then this area offered the chance to explore other options, as there is still at present no
motorised through-traffic in this area.
Our first step was to map all the important features of the landscape, both built and
natural, in order to integrate these in the planning process. This was then followed by an
initial study to explore how the Crown absorbs and expresses both radial and spiral
geometries, from the Matrimandir and the Lines of Force respectively, within the Galaxy
In studying the Galaxy Model it became immediately obvious that no perfectly circular
form has been emphasised in the built area of the Crown, and we thus felt that for
Auroville to develop the Crown in this direction, as the 'Crown Road' proposal suggests,
would not only create a strong barrier between the Matrimandir and the four Zones but
would seriously disrupt the interweaving of the primary geometries. So as an alternative
to this we have envisioned a number of paths which might interact and intersect at
different points around the circumference of the Crown, thus creating a variety of urban
experiences and a cityscape much more suited to the speed of travel which Mother forsaw.
Although they didn't appear in the original Galaxy Model either, we have chosen to keep
the existing radials, but felt that if they express the movement of the Galaxy so strongly
then they should similarly express our ideals in that they are for the use of pedestrians,
cycles, electric bikes and public transport only. These radials would then intersect and
cross the Crown and along with the development of the lines-of-sight to the Matrimandir
(running along the axes between the Matrimandir Gardens) they provide the perfect
opportunity to frame the public plazas and squares. The axes to Matrimandir could also be
paved in an alternative material, in order to highlight their unique function, and we hoped
that it might be possible to develop an appropriate glistening surface in quartz or some
similar material which could represent the 'Paths of Light' leading to the soul of Auroville.
We took the liberty of extending some of the Lines of Force in the Residential Zone to
merge with the Crown, at which point public gardens have been proposed as transitional
spaces between the horizontal movement around the Crown and the vertical movement
along the public roofs of the Lines of Force. Existing landscape features have also been
enhanced and although in most cases indigenous plants of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest
(TDEF) species are forseen, in prominent public locations water-intensive species such as
hibiscus and roses could also be chosen.
Crownways did allude to the one perfectly circular element from the original Galaxy Model,
which happened to be a water-filled canal. Since this feature would be extremely difficult
to maintain, we have transformed it into a sculpted water-catchment feature for the paved
area of Crownways. It utilises the ten metre difference in height from one side of the
Crown to the other, by proposing small waterfalls along its length, and the water which
would be collected in it would be channeled at various points into basins along its sides.
The shape of these basins also reinforces the sense of movement around the Crown, since
the form changes between each of the the axes of the Matrimandir and could similarly
respond to the theme of each garden. Depending upon the time of year the water in these
basins can either be kept as a feature, used on the nearby gardens or else re-channeled
into percolation pits to recharge the aquifers.
Wherever possible the development of environmentally appropriate solutions would try to
emphasise and thus enhance the form of the Galaxy. One example of this is the
suggestion to position the reed-beds of the water treatment systems along the inside
length of each Line of Force as they curve up and away from the Crown towards the outer
edge of the township. In this way not only is the water treatment in direct proximity to the
source of its grey water, but since it is low-lying in nature it allows a better view of the
facades which represent some of the key elements of the Galaxy.
We clearly perceive the 'Crownways' area as an extended plaza and NOT as a series of
roads. This is in the sense that all eco-friendly movement is 'allowed' everywhere, but that
it is clearly organised in a hierarchical way - with pedestrians having the highest priority,
followed by bicycles, electric bikes and non-polluting public transport, whilst access for
delivery and waste disposal vehicles would be restricted either by timing or by area or
both. We also feel strongly that all polluting-vehicles and ANY type of car should either
have to park on the periphery of the Crown, or at least for the years to come only be
allowed to cross it at specific places. A variety of approaches of this nature have already
been developed in many towns throughout Europe under the heading 'Shared Space'.
Since it is clear that Auroville's mobility solutions will develop over time, we see this
proposal as an island within the existing framework which offers an alternative experience
to everyone, and the roads and traffic which border this area simply move around it or
park on the periphery and move within on foot.
It is important to note that whatever we as a community choose now as the parameters
for the further development of our township, they will have a profound effect on how it
develops. If a two or three-lane perfectly circular road is implemented and built then all
the buildings and urban spaces which emerge in the future will be forced to relate to this,
and Auroville could well move in the direction of emulating the standard North American
strip development. Whereas, if a series of finely proportioned urban spaces could be
designed and linked together by a network of streets then we believe that Auroville has
the opportunity of evolving a much more user-friendly urban environment.
Also, since Auroville will develop over a longer period of time, and since we cannot know
what influences the next decades will bring on architecture and technology, it was felt that
the definition of this public realm would be the most important step. Defining a series of
squares and plazas would not only ensure the creation of public spaces, but as various
buildings emerge over time they would also be more likely to emphasise the overall
geometric lines of the township.
Global peak oil and the gradual densification of the township will inevitably change our
transport patterns and habits, however we believe that choosing the right parameters now
for the spaces we wish our children to move through in the future is of utmost urgency.
Dreamcatchers 10/09/08 (the countdown has begun...) :-)
Images from the presentation are included as a PDF attachment below