City Planning

Roger Anger, Auroville (City of Dawn), (1968)

As stated in the first public message about the township, “Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.”

Splitting at the seams like sections of sun-baked desert, this expansive park opens to the sky between a network of gaps and provides shade for people and plant life below. A sunken oasis designed by Thomas Heatherwick Studios, this massive Al Fayah Park will span over 1.3 million square feet and feature play and picnic areas, performance spaces and festival venues, vegetable gardens and native flowers amid rivers and other water features.

Anyone familiar with places like Black Rock City, Nevada will recognize the shape driving the design concept, but these are more than just an architect’s affectation. Beyond its naturalistic source of visual inspiration, the landscaping strategy speaks to climactic conditions in the United Arab Emirates – the sheltering dome of leaf-like decks keeps things cool below, but also helps prevent moisture loss.

From the designers: “By creating partial shade for plants, the canopy reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation, improving the park’s energy efficiency and sustainability. Whilst providing shade in the daytime, the elevated plates also become a network of unique meeting places in the cooler evening hours.”

‘This sunken oasis becomes a landscape of plants, mature trees and a cluster of public recreational spaces. The 20-metre-high shaded garden is conceived as a place for families to gather and picnic, as well as a place for learning and festivals.”

For those potential critics who still see the structure as somewhat too literal, it is worth noting the wide-ranging appeal of something so iconic to potential international tourists. Whether the shapes seem striking or trite to a given person’s tastes, part of the purpose of the design is to be recognizable and ultimately draw in visitors from around the world. One question still worth raising, though, might be its fit in the site context – will it blend into the surrounding ground or stand out in the city?

A vision of cities in 1950, according to Popular Science Monthly in 1925. Besides being dominated by pedestrians and necessitating emissions-free cars (which they were certain electric vehicles would easily do) they also predicted that airplanes would be second to inflatable dirigibles, which were more fuel efficient.

The Safest Suburb In The World Did It By Ending The Culture Of Cars

Houten’s main road, which was not actually a road but a winding path through what looked like a golf course or a soft-edged set from Teletubbies: all lawns and ponds and manicured shrubs. Not a car in sight. We rolled past an elementary school and kindergarten just as the lunch bell rang. Children, some of whom seemed barely out of diapers, poured out, hopped on little pink and blue bicycles, and raced past us, homeward. 

“We are quite proud of this,” Tiemens boasted. “In most of the Netherlands, children don’t bike alone to school until they are eight or nine years old. Here they start as young as six.”

“Their parents must be terrified,” I said.

“There’s nothing to fear. The little ones do not need to cross a single road on their way home.”

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