Monday, October 24, 2011


The Auroville Earth Institute (AEI) is synonymous for Earth Architecture in India. Similar to Hasan Fathy in Egypt, architect Satprem Maine is the face of earth architecture in India. This French born architect came to India almost 20 years back and has now made Auroville his home, from where he has been responsible for the development and propagation of architecture using earth as the raw material, in both India as well as other countries. For his efforts, the AEI has been conferred the UNESCO Chair for Earthen Architecture.
‘Our Mother Earth gives us a wonderful building material, which should be used with awareness, sensitivity and with much respect and gratitude. The Auroville Earth Institute is acting for this recognition’.
‘I don’t see the Earth as a formless material without consciousness, but as Spirit consciously disguised as matter’.
There is a school of thought which believes that building with earth is just the right way forward in these times of climate change and pseudo-sustainability. That it makes much more sense to use a material which is available right on the site, which needs no additional transportation, one which needs no additional treatment and energy intensive processing before being used for construction and one which needs no additional makeup after construction and can be left as it is. Earth, as a material has got serious potential, even in the fast paced world that we are in. Let’s not forget that it has withstood the test of time, being one of the very first building materials ever known to man. Our ancestors have used it, experimented with it and perfected the practice of using earth. Yet, our technology driven world has turned its back on it, relegating it as a material for the poor. The paradox is that the beautiful vernacular architecture we find in our rural areas is slowly dying due to this unfounded craze for concrete boxes. It is time we refocused our attention.

The Vaulted Kitchen in AEI

The AEI office

Satprem has been fascinated by earth as a material and its limitless potential. His body of work speaks for itself – right from simple houses in the various communities in Auroville, to the 4 storeyed apartments in Vikas community, the innumerable schools in and around Pondicherry, the Solar kitchen in Auroville...the list is endless.  Through all these projects run a remarkable creative spirit in the use of material to develop different concepts and forms, enclosing space through vaults, domes and arches, creating playful structures which engage you.
Disaster housing & earthquake resistant structures are one of Satprem’s major focus areas, again using earth technologies and have been implemented extensively in places like Gujarat, Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Columbia, South Africa etc.

'Realisation' housing project in Auroville

Inside one of the homes in Realisation

A Precast staircase in AEI

 What is more remarkable is the passion Satprem has for this, his endless and often lonely struggle to promote earth architecture, to make the people aware of its possibilities, to spread knowledge among architects, students and other people from the construction industry. The AEI conducts regular training courses on various facets of earth architecture – right from basic awareness programs to the more intensive ones. The different residential training programs offer hands-on learning experience on everything related to mud and are highly in demand. Anybody who is genuinely interested in sustainability and earth architecture should definitely head down to Auroville and immerse oneself in the amazing world of earth architecture.         

A Rammed Earth wall

A CSEB block for column

A Compressed Earth Block wall

A Composite beam / lintel

A CSEB block manufacturing machine designed by Satprem
For more information on AEI & the training courses,
check out their website –

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  1. i am looking for some former students of avei, who are currently based in hyderaad for an exiting project using cseb and other sustainale technologies
    you can reach me on 09246549300

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