Sustainable Architecture

Pino Marchese Sheril Castelino

Auroville based Castelino & Marchese Architects and associates (C&M), an architectural firm runs by Aurovillian architects Sheril Castelino and Pino Marchese, has a unique approach to interpret various architectural techniques in a completely contemporary style that incorporates futuristic perceptions of space. In their quest and concern for sustainable architecture, the architect duo always try to use alternative low-energy building technology in their projects as far as possible. For sustainable and contemporary living with an international style suited to this town's tropical climate, they prefer to use local materials and their designs employ natural elements like earth, water, breeze and sunlight for cooling, insulation and illumination wherever possible. Auroville is known for its natural materials such as bamboo thatch, ferrocement, wattle and dob, compressed earth blocks and terracotta, that create sheer poetry of design and the duo always try to stick to a more stringent definition of sustainable architecture in their work.

The duo's own house even lends the classic Aurovilian architecture a contemporary soul. They made simple, innovative changes to the typical "row" house in Auroville to create a spacious, bungalow-like tropical villa with a private mezzanine to take rest and study and minimalistic decor. Contrary to congestion associated with small spaces, the design deftly manipulates space and light in a 75 sgm plot.

tropical villa

Distinctly Zen-like simplicity, their Aurovilian residence is ideal for a tropical climate. The intensive use of inexpensive cement flooring in a uniform ochre shade provides warmth to the ready apartment shell with nature-friendly approach in order to rein the costs without compromising the quality and finish of the building, is evident in the creative use of many natural construction materials like bamboo thatch, ferrocement, wattle and dob besides subtle introduction of compressed earth blocks and terracotta around the Castelino Marchese residence.

Architects and C&M Architectural firm

Graduated in Architecture from University of Florence in 1990 and practiced pottery at 'Antica Fornace Di Bacchereto' in Vinci-Tuscany (1982-84), Pino Marchese worked for eight years in various studios of architecture in south Italy and Florence doing projects for housing, commercial and public buildings. He was the part of team in Auroville's Future - Town Planning & Centre for Urban Research (1998-2005) and worked in close association with Auroville's chief architect Roger Anger on various planning and architectural projects (1998-2007). He was the coordinator of Architecture and Urban design L'avenir d'Auroville (2007–09) and has also done several independent projects including interior design of stores, private houses and product design. He came first to Auroville in 1997.

Sheril Castelino, an architectural consultant, very aware of the socio-economic and environmental concerns and a graduate of the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture & Environmental Studies, Mumbai, has been practicing in Auroville since 1997. She has worked on many projects independently and in conjunction with other architects based in Auroville. She was also the part of the innovative Urban Planning team for Auroville's Future - Centre for Urban research & assisted Auroville's chief architect Roger Anger 2001–06; she worked with Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti, Arizona, USA (2003) and was also the member of Auroville Industrial Zone Group (2002–06), member of Auroville Planning Group (2003–06) and member of Auroville Planning & Development Council (2004–05).

Established in 1998, C&M works on different projects including innovative urban planning, sustainable architecture, landscape, interiors, product design and photography. The firm provides internship to Indian and international students in all design fields and organize seminars and workshops for students and professionals in sustainable development practices. C&M designs award winning eco-friendly and sustainable architecture with holistic approach incorporating green building principles and received State Commendation Award at the 18th Architect of the Year Awards 2008 for Indian State Architecture Awards (ISAA).

Some of the firm's important projects are Muyerchi-Auroville, Sudhakar's house-Villupuram, Timber Beach House-Srima Auroville, Batmanabane's house-Moolakulam, Pondicherry, Promenade Hotel Luxury Suites-Pondicherry, Pen- thouse, Rue Labourdonnais-Pondicherry, Devayan - 12 apartments building complex-Vaithekuppam Pondicherry, Nandanam - 24 apartments building complex-Vaithekuppam Pondicherry, Cuppai Chai – Auroville, Isaiambalam School-Auroville, and so on.

Daniel's House

The Tsunami in December 2004 wrecked havoc on the houses along the eastern coast. Ensuing this, a safe shelter was a prime concern in the region. Trying to cater to this need and its proximity to the sea; the CRZ (Coastal zone regulation) restrictions, C&M Architects came up with a solution that addressed these aspects. A structure in wood on 3 levels was designed and integrated with the local climate and conditions. This house, just off the scenic east coast road leading from Chennai to Pondicherry, is tucked away in a sylvan surrounding a stroll away from the sea. Daniel, the client, desired a house which blended with the surrounding landscape. And indeed, to live in this house is akin to living symbiotically with the trees around it!

wooden flooring

This self-contained residence, designed for a single user, has a footprint of only 30 sq.m. on each floor. Even though the residence covers a small area, the spaces lend a cosy feel in a forest like setting. The approach to treat the spaces is minimalistic, without compromising comfort and convenience at all.

The core concept of this design was to fuse the outside environment with the interior setting. Given the location on the sea shore and the high humidity, the material options were limited to wood and aluminium were chosen since they are light, corrosion resistant, and easy to dismantle. The wood structure is treated against termites that are abundant in the area as well as for rain protection with an effectively tested combination of linseed oil, vinegar & engine oil! The ground floor brick structure comprises a garage. Subtly, the structure converts to wood as a material as it ascends, with the top most floor made mainly of wood, it easily merges with the canopies of the surrounding trees. The first floor includes it a kitchenette, living-and bathroom. The upper most floor fully in seasoned teak wood has a luxurious bedroom and a terrace overlooking the sea beyond.

The rustic toilet has stone on the walls and floor with granite boulders carved into for wash basins. The clause of cross ventilation is taken a step further by providing openings on all four sides offering a 360 degree view of the scenic landscape. On the second level, sliding glass and mosquito netted panels constitute the walls.

The latticed wood work outside, is inspired by the traditional architecture of south India. This creates a diffusion of light, ventilation and privacy. The aesthetics offered by this framework is extended to the interiors as well by a play of light. This house is the result of a 2-year dedication of one sole carpenter. The roof is composed of aluminum panels which insulate the spaces by reflecting the heat falling on it. The staircase connecting the two levels, acts as a merger between the load bearing brick wall base and the wooden superstructure. The wooden flooring on the 2 levels and the staircase form a common entity by means of the same material used.

On the whole, this neat little abode and the immediate environ are in tune with each other without over powering each other's charm.

Renovation, Interiors and landscaping of Arun Murugappan 'Laurels'

This large colonial home has been renovated and remodeled in keeping with its heritage style. Large open spaces - perfect for entertaining guests - flow onto a gorgeous central courtyard with zen garden, with a cozy informal family space at one end enhancing the privacy of this large home. The original terrazzo tile floors wasn't in a good condition and has been replaced by a warm ochre natural stone in the living room leading onto a charming garden, spacious open plan kitchen and family room. The guest bedrooms are done in traditional IPS flooring.

Interiors and landscaping

The part of first floor was converted into a roof terrace and a lounging verandah enhanced by a designed landscaping and post –traditional and modern Lounge and makes this the ideal sitting area and chill out zone.

The house currently has 5 spacious bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, formal and informal living room, a spacious dining room, which look through 2 large windows into the Zen Garden open to sky.The garden area also has a swimming pool at one end with a gym room.
Arun Murugappan Laurels

Batmanabane House

Understated elegance', vastu compliance, eco-friendly principles, sustainable architecture, well-lit & ventilated and transparency are some of the elements of the Batmanabane house.

Batmanabane House

Essentially the dominant element of the house is a square double-storied volume; pure, sleek, geometric envelope lifted buoyantly above slender pilotis on the tight site. The open to sky garden on the first floor reclaims the area of the building for green space inside.

Since the house was only for two people, a couple, maximum transparency and visual access within the interiors of the house was tried to be achieved. The other architectural features of the project include: modular design, no ornamentation, pure colour on the façades, a very open interior plan, interior garden on the first level, 3-car integral garage (the curve on ground floor based on turning radius of the cars) etc.

interior garden

During the design stage, the architects faced certain challenges as the plot was square shaped and the client's area requirement was to nearly cover the entire plot. So light and cross ventilation was to be achieved in a block which was a challenge. Providing a large open garden on the first floor resolved this aspect around which all the rooms on the two floors opened into with glass walls that provided transparency, ample light and cross ventilation, at the same time a sense of green and garden which is hard to have around in a city location.

Appropriateness, local availability, after sales service, reliability, and costs were the factors for choosing the various materials.