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Auroville Experience


February 2008

 

Roger Anger

- Alan

Roger Anger, whom The Mother appointed as the Chief Architect of Auroville, passed away on 15th January at the age of 84.
He had been ill for some time
.

Roger Anger. Photo by John Mandeen.Roger graduated in 1947 from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris . He belonged to the avant garde of the modernist architectural trend. Among his early projects, he designed a remarkable apartment structure in Grenoble , which was awarded the Brussels Premier Prix International d'Architecture in 1967.

In 1965, The Mother asked Roger to design the future city of Auroville . Together with Pierre Braslawski and Mario Heymann, he developed what became known as the ‘Galaxy' concept. He also worked on the design of the Matrimandir, as well as a number of houses and schools in Auroville.

In the 1970s, frustrated by the slow pace of development, he left Auroville for almost a decade. When he returned, the ‘space frame' of the Matrimandir had been completed, thanks to the dedication of Piero and the collective efforts of many Aurovilians, and Roger felt there were new possibilities in the air.

While Piero and his team were given the responsibility of finishing the inner chamber, Roger and his partner, Jacqueline La Coste, supervised the completion of the rest of the Matrimandir project. This huge task, complicated by design challenges and resistance to some of his proposals, is only now reaching its conclusion.

Roger in his studio at Auromodele. Photo by John Mandeen.

Roger also worked hard on realizing an urban environment for Auroville based upon the fundamental principles of the Galaxy plan, but in this he was less successful. “When it came to planning the city,” he said, “Mother put pressure upon us to make the original concept more and more dynamic. In fact, as an architect I have simply been an instrument to express Her vision. Few people understand this.”

Roger's touchstone was always beauty. For him, the aim of architecture was to manifest a high standard of beauty because “Beauty has the power of uplifting the consciousness, spontaneously”. “My inspiration,” he said, “was Le Corbusier. He was a genius in his use of form. He did not look to the past, only to the future, and he was single-minded, bold in his conceptions.” Roger could have been speaking of himself.

Roger was also passionate about painting and sculpture. The studio below his house in Auromodel was full of artwork that he worked at for many hours daily. This, he said, was where he was conducting his research into beauty. (Anupama Kundoo, an Auroville architect, will soon publish a book on Roger's artwork. It will be released in May at the same time as a large exhibition in Paris of Roger's sculptures and paintings.)

Roger was a charismatic, inspirational figure. Many Auroville architects were trained by him or benefitted from his generous guidance. As Pashi Kapoor, a long-time associate, put it, “He was able to galvanize many architects to work in Auroville since he gave them the freedom to express themselves.”

Above all, it was his uncompromising devotion to The Mother and to realizing Her vision which made him such a force. He had his faults – he could be dismissive of those who did not share his point of view, and he didn't communicate well with those outside his inner circle – but no one could deny his refinement, his courage, above all, his devotion to The Mother. And to serving Her future.

A sketch by Roger.

A selection of tributes:

I am deeply distressed to learn of Roger's passing away. He was indeed a remarkable architect and a true servitor of the Mother. The way he presided over the translation of Mother's vision of the Matrimandir into a reality was a truly monumental achievement. I had often expressed the view that with the completion of Matrimandir his life work had been completed, but I did not realize that he would go even before the date of the formal event.
His particular place in Auroville will be virtually impossible to fill.

Dr. Karan Singh (Chairman of the Governing Board)

 

When the idea of building up an international township of Auroville began to be conceived by the Mother, a letter was written by Her from the Ashram at Pondicherry to Roger, who was at that time in France , asking him if he would like to build up Auroville as its architect. When Roger answered the letter in the affirmative, the Mother was greatly pleased, and when She wrote to him in appreciation of his positive response, the Mother commented that his response was not a surprise to Her, because She had already known him as the “Man of the Project”! [….] “L'Homme de' Projet!” – These words of the Mother for Roger sum up splendidly and gloriously all that was so beautifully packed in that great artist, visionary, sculptor and architect. [….] The task that the Mother had given him for Auroville remained for decades and decades throughout his life the sovereign occupation. He tried to fulfil that task as an instrument of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Like all adventurers who have striven to participate in a new experiment that has universal dimensions, he had to forge ahead through enormous difficulties, internal and external.

Right from the manufacture of the crystal to the manufacture of golden leaves that shine today in the dome of the edifice, incalculable and meticulous care was bestowed on every aspect of the work by hundreds to whom the Matrimandir meant a mission. And yet the one factor that gave form to the Matrimandir, the one factor that guided Matrimandir's overall development, and the one factor that brought about the incarnation of surpassing beauty, majestic grandeur, and immortal glory, – that factor was Roger. Before he left his body, this great genius had accomplished the mission of his life; he has left behind him a glory that will never fade.
Kireet Joshi (former Chairman of the Governing Board)

 

I will join you all in prayer for this remarkable, profoundly dedicated man. It was a great privilege to have met him and experienced his passion for the ideals we share. His drive to embody the Divine on Earth is a fundamental part of Auroville's DNA.
Michael Murphy (member of the International Advisory Council)

 

Following my latest visit to Matrimandir and the profound emotions I experienced, I was waiting for Roger's arrival to tell him of my admiration for what he had accomplished.
Now I learn that he has departed – all day Eliot's words echoed in me:
“The nymphs are departed,
and their friends have left no addresses”
Creativity is linked to our infantile aspects and children are difficult to manage…
For realizing Her dream, the Mother in Her infinite wisdom put them to play, giving each one the role best suited to him.
Roger's role was the most difficult; right for his creative capacity, his energy and his courage-
He played a marvellous game!
Now Mother holds him in her arms, giving him the rest and the peace that he deserves.

Paolo Tommasi (the Italian designer whom Mother asked to work with Roger and who, together with Piero, supervised the work on the inner chamber)

 

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing away of Roger Anger, the chief architect of Matrimandir and Auroville, so far away from the place that was so close to his heart and where the greatest testimony to his creative genius and his devotion to Mother stands.
Ajoy Bagchi (member of the Governing Board)

 

To you, Roger, with our love and immense gratitude
For your long life of consecration to the mission that The Mother had Gracefully put over your shoulders. For putting all your consciousness, your work, your life at Her service;
For being the receptor of Her Dream and for carrying it like a torch through so many dark passages;
For keeping it alive in spite of adverse conditions, apparent impossibilities and recurring resistances;
For your uncompromising attitude towards the highest ideals of Auroville;

For your love for beauty and your constant call to the forces and forms of the future; For your courage, your indefatigable labour and your patience and endurance;
For being such a faithful warrior; For your endurance through all the incomprehension you received;
And for maintaining always your smile and your sweetness.

Because you drew the lines of the Galaxy, giving birth to the concrete manifestation of the Vision;
Because you reminded us constantly that it was not ‘yours' but Her Dream and Her City;
Because you cared for the design and execution, up to the minutest detail to attain the highest levels of beauty and perfection.
You have given this immense gift to all of us, to Auroville, to the world, a city with a soul, a city like no other. Now that this Soul, this dwelling place of the Divine Mother is built, Her city will be manifested. We can only feel an immense gratitude towards you, and our prayer that we are worth of this gift.

(L'avenir d'Auroville – Auroville's Future)

 

For me, he has been an intriguingly rare personality who could maintain the widest of visions and simultaneously pay attention to the smallest of details. A refined and heroic being, straight-forward and courageous, who led a disciplined balanced life, and rarely skipped his afternoon game of chess, “it's one game, where nothing can occur by chance, you create everything.”
Anupama (from an article published in ‘The Hindu')

 

Among Roger's qualities, I would like to illustrate how he achieved Beauty for the Matrimandir gardens.
The construction of the pathways started in July 2003. Roger and Jacqueline came with a design for a pattern of agra and granite stones to be laid at the crossing of two pathways. They asked for a prototype of these stones to be laid on sand at the crossing.
Balaraman and myself did not know that we were entering a process of preparing many prototypes. Roger would relentlessly modify each design, asking for a parallel prototype so that he could see both prototypes side by side in matter. Jacqueline would continuously create new designs with him. In fact, for each design there must have been five to ten prototypes since Roger would take into consideration the shape, volume and harmony of the agra , granite and marble stones, as well as how they fitted in the Matrimandir environment.
Each time I admired and enjoyed how the modifications proposed by Roger improved the overall beauty and I was glad to collaborate in perfecting the work.

Alain Grandcolas (who worked with Roger on the Matrimandir from the very beginning)

 

I first met Roger in 1968 when Auroville and the Matrimandir were inaugurated and Mother asked me to work with him. I learned a great deal from him. Roger was an architectural genius, a fine visionary. He created a sense of unity in all that he did while manifesting a great diversity in the details, and this gave his creations harmony and beauty. In the exceptional atmosphere of those early years, many were inspired by him.
André Hababou

See also our website page on Roger Anger

 

 

 

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