Our Team



Satprem Maïni
Director


T. Ayyappan
Co-Director


Lara K. Davis
Co-Director


Radhika Soni
Architect



Marine Roubaud
Architect



Liju George
Architect



Rajesh H.
Engineer



Manikandan S.
Jr. Engineer



Omar Rabie
Lecturer



Nourredine Kebaili
Researcher



Daniel Estis
Computer technician


Hilary D. Smith
Librarian



Sudha S.
Accountant



A. Saravanan
Secretary



Subramanian
Office assistant



E. Manigandan
Mason


J. Venkatesan
Mason


E. Ravindaran
Mason


Sambasivam
Mason


Ulaganathan
General works


P. Venkatesh
Worker


Desingu
Worker


Krishnamurthy
Worker


M. Raji
Blockmaker


S. Anjalaxmi
Maintenance


Ramalingam
Blockmaker


J. Jagan
Helper


Gopal
Temporary worker


Sarasu
Maintenance


Satprem Maïni, French national born in Bône, Algeria, is the director, executive and soul of the Auroville Earth Institute. He works as an architect and builder, consultant, researcher, trainer and lecturer. He studied in France and holds a master's degree in architecture and a postgraduate master's degree in Earthen Architecture from CRAterre. Since 2000, he has been the representative for Asia of the UNESCO Chair "Earthen Architecture, Constructive Cultures and Sustainable Development".

Since 1989, Satprem has trained more than 8,000 people from 75 countries. He has been active in 35 countries for consultation, lectures and workshops. He has built more than 30 projects in India, 3 projects abroad and has produced more than 22 publications. Under his leadership, the Earth Institute has won 11 national and 2 international awards, has educated several generations of young architects in India and abroad, and has become one of the global centers for excellence in earthen construction and research.

He is an occasional consultant for the United Nations (UNESCO, UNIDO, UNDP, UNCHS / Habitat); a member of CRATerre/ENSAG (International Centre of Earth Construction, France), an honorary member of ABC Terra (Brazilian Centre for Earth Construction), a member of the German Network of earth builders (Dachverband Lehm e.V.), a member of ISET (the Indian Society of Earthquake Technology), and a member INHAF (India Habitat Forum).

Satprem's Philosophy


T. Ayyappan is the co-director, senior masonry technician and faculty member of the Auroville Earth Institute. An Indian national born in Edayachavadi, Tamil Nadu, India, Ayyappan followed a standard education in his village, and partnered at an early age with Satprem Maïni in the founding of the Auroville Building Centre / Earth Unit in 1989.

Since then, he has acquired many years of practical experience as a draftsman, site supervisor, researcher and trainer. He has supervised constructions across India and abroad. As head faculty at the Earth Institute, he is in charge of AVEI practical courses. He also supervises long term trainees and interns for their work in design, development and research initiatives. His skill and dedication -- along with Satprem's -- has made the Earth Institute what it is today.


Lara Davis is an architect, structural masonry expert and co-director at the Auroville Earth Institute, India, UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture. She is a specialist in earthen construction and the structural design and construction of thin-shell masonry vaulting (in particular with Catalan vaulting). She holds a BFA from the New York State College of Ceramics (NYSCC) at Alfred University and an M.Arch from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Lara has been the recipient of multiple international research awards for her work at the MIT Masonry Research group, the Institute for Lightweight Structures (ILEK)/ University Stuttgart (Germany), the BLOCK Research Group/ ETH Zürich (Switzerland), and the Future Cities Laboratory (Singapore). She has worked professionally as a mason, foreman, architect, junior engineer and project manager, leading key constructions and teaching workshops in India, Algeria, Ethiopia, Switzerland, UK and USA. Her work has been exhibited at the Modern Museum of Art (MoMA), The MIT Museum, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the Venice Biennale.


“Make it in a way that when I am gone, it itself is just going to melt back into the earth and not going to be a gash out of forest.”

These words from the documentary ‘First Earth – Uncompromising Ecological Architecture’ by David Sheen, have inspired Radhika Soni to look at life and architecture in a sustainable way. Auroville has always fascinated her with the experiments in materials and design. After graduating from Sir J.J. College of Architecture her urge towards Vernacular Architecture brought here here. Auroville has been giving her opportunities to face various challenges that make her grow towards her aspirations. Auroville Earth Institute is one of the best blend for research, design and training. She is looking forward to be a part of conscientious environment.


Anna Muset was born and raised in Barcelona 1976, between the bricks and workshop of her father’s company. Growing up walking with her mother along the paths of Gaudi's Park Guell, the Sagrada Familia, she thus discovered the Catalan architecture that was reinvented with every step.

In this environment, she learned to love architecture and began technical draftsmanship by pursuing Technical Architecture Studies at Elisava - Pompeu Fabra University in the Barcelona city center, once again breathing in the modern development of architecture contrasted with tradition. By combining working and studying, she got collaborations in project such as the Buddhist Temple in Castelldefels and the Sisters School in Sant Feliu, as well as work in housing inspection, activity licensing and upgrading cartographic plans for the Cartographic Institute of Catalalonia.

At the time of the biggest economic boom in Barcelona in 2007, a story on the radio and some social and cultural questions led her to drop everything and go to Cambodia voluntary as a volunteer for 1.5 years. There she helped to design the new Montessori school, remodel the principal's house and design the new church. They taught her how to use natural building materials, particularly local resources, using simple and traditional techniques. Projects were undertaken through community action work where everybody participated and she was enriched with this principle of "do it yourself ".

She continued her experience in Malaysia in a very opposite style of construction. However, six months later she decided to go to India and she volunteered for the Vicente Ferrer NGO. Together they worked to build 3 hospitals, a tuberculosis unit, an amphitheater, a nurses' residence, and a school for handicapped children with attached residence.

In 2010, she studied for a post-degree on International Humanitarian Development and afterward got a scholarship for the University of Bali where she could deepen her thesis on the essence of creativity and spirituality.

Working toward a fusion between creativity, usage, culture, economic efficiency, ecology, sustainability, art, development, comfort and recycling, she landed in Auroville Earth Institute, a definitive paradise.


The main interest that has guided Sam Rodrigues' work and personal research lies in appropriate and sustainable building technologies. For its technical, social, ecological and economical idiosyncrasies, earth architecture became, early on, the main focus of his attention. In the search for experience and knowledge he spent one year in Brazil at Tibá, a research center created by Johan van Lengen (author of the book “Barefoot Architect”). He worked in different building jobs with Gernot Minke, giving him the opportunity to deepen his knowledge in earth building and compression structures as well as building site management and working team coordination.

Along with this experiences he co-created a cooperative (Sítio) in 2011, dedicated to produce, investigate, document and disseminate solutions in Appropriate Technologies, Agro-ecology and Sustainable Architecture.

His main motivation to join AVEI is the will to work with an experienced team with an extensive body of knowledge in earth architecture and compression structures so he can put it to use and further develop his own capabilities.


I first started by studying applied arts, and then ceramic design, where I was able to discover what matter is and how it reacts. However I always felt the scale of ceramics was too small for me. And I also couldn’t see how practicing ceramics would convey the social or the political change that I was trying to implement in my life at that time. But once I saw a documentary of raw earth construction, I fell in love. Looking for how to learn raw earth construction, I only found a post-graduate program from CRATerre, open solely for architects. And that’s how I became an architect. In studying architecture, I put aside my first concern with earth construction, and I enjoyed broadening my general understanding of the architecture field. I discovered urban planning, sustainability, and felt really committed to designing with strong focus on urban applications and ecologies, as well as innovative systems.

After graduating, I felt like I wanted to go back to the roots of my commitment. That’s why I landed here at AVEI as a first step of a constructive journey around the world. I’m indeed looking forward to learning more techniques, like rammed earth, bamboo structure, stone masonry, because for me, these “low-tech” techniques are ecological answers to further development, as well as a political statement : relinking men’s hands and matter.


I, Arun Raj, have been a student of architecture in PMU, Thanjore. During those five years, I had a great experience with my friends and staff members in my college life and now it remains sweet memories.

Since I have been brought up in the Auroville surroundings, it has been a great opportunity for me to explore Auroville as much as possible and has also inspired me in many aspects of architecture. This has been a key reason for me to choose a course of study in Architecture. And I always wanted to come here and explore. Architecture shapes the place you practice in and influences places around. Hence this place, to understand the impact of my design on the environment and explore better design.

Two years before I was intern in AVEI and now, I have finally come here as an architect for a year and hope I am able to give back to this place as much as I am gaining from here.

Inspiration from Nature:
I don't need to go and try to force my own ideas of what is form and function and how people should build or not build, but just observe how, for instance a little creature in the sea creates the most beautiful seashells out of the elements in water; how a great seed changes the earth into the most gorgeous fruit. All of these are the greatest inspiration for me. So I try to master the art of designing the building using locally available materials.

I feel learning at the Auroville Earth Institute is an opportunity for me to go back to the essentials of local and sustainable building and for the betterment of society.


Ram is an architect who graduated in 2014 from MITS Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh). His interests lie in developing new ideas in design, materials, and spaces. Recently, he completed his own renovation and interior project. But after completing the project, he realized that there were so many things he had yet to learn.

That is why he came to Auroville and joined the Earth Institute. Because Earth Institute works on all things: design, structure, sustainability, and research.

He will be working at AVEI for one year. He would like to stay for more than one year in Auroville to experience different aspects of sustainable living. After, he is planning to do his Master’s in Sustainable Design. So, he hopes this experience will help him a lot to take a step forward toward sustainability.


Marine is a French architect recently graduated from the Ecole Nationale Superieure of Toulouse. She arrived in India in late 2015 with the aim to improve her architectural culture and to discover new ways of living more related with her values and her life philosophy.

She had the luck to grow up in a small town in South of France where you can admire everyday natural wonder. And, unfortunately, she could also observe how human behavior could destroy this environment. That’s why she decided to specialise in Preservation and Restoration of Architectural Heritage and Sustainable Construction.

She truly believes that architects could have a key role in this context. In fact, with specific skills such as creativity, ingenuity, organization and control of different scales issues, one can find and broadcast different ways of living in harmony with Nature. So, when she joined the Architecture School, she started to be interested by other types of construction as troglodytic architecture (Final Year Thesis) and rammed earth buildings.


Liju has returned to the Earth Institute in July as a junior architect. Liju, who is originally from Thrissur (Kerala) and who did his architecture studies at R.V.S. School of Architecture in Madurai, was previously an intern with the architecture department for six months from 2013-2014.

After finishing his B.Arch, Liju joined a firm in Bangalore, but the architectural style was not interesting to him, and so he decided to return to the Earth Institute, where he had been so inspired by his work on the Spiti Community Centre, among other projects.


Rajesh grew up in Pondicherry. In 2014, he completed my college studies at Achariya College of Engineering Technology. He received a B.Tech Civil Engineering degree and did a thesis on “Partial Replacement of Sand Using Bagasse Ash”. He earned experience in the field working with a Pondicherry engineer on the construction of a go-down (warehouse) as the Site Engineer.

He wanted to work at the Earth Institute because he liked the idea of using natural material in construction, which is in process here. It gives wings to fly with dreams.

In the office, he is doing research on the Rate Generator software. He likes it very much because it is quite challenging with his prior knowledge while there remain many more things to learn.


Manikandan grew up close to Auroville in the village of Edayan Chavadi. After finishing Udavi School, an Auroville village outreach school, he began his B.E. in Civil Engineering at Dr. Paul’s Engineering College, close to Tindivanam. During his studies, he did his final project on the structural design on a guest house and spent summers gaining experience in the field by working on construction with his father, a contractor with Auroville architect Dharmesh.

Now that his studies are finished, Manikandan has joined the Earth Institute team as a junior engineer and looks forward to gaining experience in site supervision and calculations.


Omar Rabie is the founder of Unitary, and a lecturer at the Auroville Earth Institute. He is a holder of a Master of Science in Architectural Studies (SMArchS) Degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a Master of Science (MSc) in Sustainable Environmental Design from the Architectural Association in London (AA). Through his career, he has accumulated varied experiences in challenging environments, including working as a designer, and a team leader, in Takenaka corporation (Osaka), and Kengo Kuma and Associates (Tokyo). Omar is an International Union of Architects (UIA) awarded designer, and selected jury member for few international competitions including the Velux Award “Day light for Tomorrow.” Between practice and academia, he has been experimentally investigating design innovations connecting the areas of materiality, construction technology, and environmental sustainability. Omar has given lectures, participated in teaching and research in different reputable academic institutions, including MIT, AA, Tokyo University, and the Auroville Earth Institute. Through his design practice, research, lectures and studio teaching, Omar aspires to blur the line between today’s tech-savvy Gentleman Designer and yesterday’s environment- and material-sensible Master Builder.


Nourredine Kebaili is an Algerian researcher who joined Auroville Earth Institute in October 1st 2013 to carry out a PhD research about Earthen Building satisfaction. He is a teacher at the university of Ammar Telidji-Laghouat in Algeria. He is teaching architecture and descriptive geometry to first year graduate students since 2007.He also mentor students at the end of studies for their final project since 2009. He is interested with earthen buildings since 2001 when he performed his first magistery research on traditional earthen houses in Algeria.

He met Satprem during an ARCHITerre conference in 2010 in Algiers. Since that he is visiting Earth Institute regularly to learn more about its CSEB knowledge. He presented Auroville as a city in forefront of sustainable development during the annual FSP seminar in EPAU School of architecture in Algiers last year.


Daniel Estis is the secretary, computer systems technician, and webmaster at the Auroville Earth Institute. His technical assistance and organizational skills make it possible for the Institute to run, with a high traffic of students, employees, and visitors, and a large volume of research and architectural projects.

Daniel is also working part-time at Bluelight, Auroville's technical support consultancy.


Hilary D. Smith is the librarian at the Auroville Earth Institute. She did her BA at UC Berkeley followed by an MS in Library & Information Science at Syracuse University. Her propensity for multicultural exchange has led her to study, research, and work in France, Tunisia, Algeria, and India before ultimately settling in the singular environment of Auroville.

Her particular areas of interest include digital resource management & dissemination, metadata standards, multilingual content management, and open access to scholarly material. She is currently working on a digital repository project to collect the scholarly content being produced in the member institutes of the UNESCO Chair for Earthen Architecture.


Sudha is the accountant at the Auroville Earth Institute. An Indian national born in Kottakarai, she attended a local school before joining the team at the Earth Institute. Under her guidance since 2003, the finances for the diverse activities of the Earth Institute -- training, research, construction, consultancy -- have been skillfully and carefully managed.


Saravanan is the secretary and purchasing coordinator for the Auroville Earth Institute. Born in the nearby village of Kuila Palayam, he pursued an education through higher second at the local school. Before coming to the Institute in 2011, he gained valuable experience in the diverse fields of farm management and graphic design.


Subramanian has worked at the Earth Institute as office assistant since February 2010. Originally from Kottakarai, he completed a BA in Economics at Madras University. He coordinates publications and training course materials as well as managing supplies for the Institute.


Regi Kumar joined the Earth Institute in March 2011. Born in Alleppey in Kerala, he received the title of civil draftsman from the Industrial Training Institute. He works as site supervisor and e'block manager.


Manigandan has worked with the Auroville Earth Institute as a mason since 2003. He has worked on projects in Auroville including Vikas, Surya Nivas, and Deepanam School, in local surrounding areas like Cuddalore and Marakkanam, across India, and in Saudi Arabia on the El-Mehdy Mosque in Riyadh. He works completing and overseeing all types of masonry and assists with the hands-on elements of AVEI training courses.


Venkatesan has worked as a mason at the Auroville Earth Institute since 2003. He has participated in projects in Auroville such as Vikas, Surya Nivas, and Deepanam School, across India in Coimbatore, Delhi, Gujarat, and abroad in Saudi Arabia on the El-Mehdy Mosque. His areas of expertise include interlocking CSEB and ferrocement, and building using of arches, vaults, and domes. He also assists in the hands-on aspects of the AVEI training courses.


Ravindaran has worked as a mason with the Auroville Earth Institute since 2007. He has taken part in projects in India, primarily centered in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, in such places as Bhommyarpalayam, Marakkanam, Naddakkupam, and Pondicherry.


Sambasivam from the nearby village of Edayan Chavadi and he is working as a mason with the Auroville Earth Institute team. He worked on the Earth Institute’s Realization construction project, after which he began doing masonry work in Pondicherry. He rejoined the Earth Institute in 2015.


Ulaganathan began working at the Auroville Earth Institute in 2002. He is in charge of general works, which include welding, electrical connections, and blockmaking. He primarily works on projects in and around Auroville, examples being Surya Nivas, Realization, the AVEI office, the Bamboo House, Well Paper, the Nataraja Temple, and Nadukkuppam.


Venkatesh has worked at the Auroville Earth Institute since 2008. As a worker engaged in blockmaking and construction site work, he has participated on Surya Nivas, Sukhavati, Realization, the expansion of the Earth Institute facilities, Aureka, Nataraja Temple, and Well Paper.


Desingu has worked as a helper at the Auroville Earth Institute since 2008. Over the years, he has helped with the blockmaking process and construction site tasks at Realization, the Earth Institute premises, Well Paper, Aureka, Nataraja Temple, and Surya Nivas.


Raji has worked as a blockmaker at the Auroville Earth Institute since 2000. He has primarily worked with the Auram press in projects near to Auroville such as Realization, Aureka, Surya Nivas, Marakkanam School, and the Nataraja Temple.


Ramalingam has worked as a helper at the Auroville Earth Institute since 1990. The oldest employee at the Institute, he is nonetheless a very active part of the blockmaking and construction process. He has worked on Realization, Vikas, Surya Nivas, the Nataraja Temple, and the AVEI office buildings.


Krishnamurthy has worked at the Auroville Earth Institute since 2009. He assists with block production and supplies for the construction sites. He has participated in projects around Auroville such as Realization, Well Paper, the Nataraja Temple, Utility, and Repos.


Jagan has worked at the Auroville Earth Institute since 2010. He is the youngest employee at the Institute and assists with block production and supplies for the construction sites. Projects he has worked on include Realization, Marakkanam, Well Paper, and the Earth Institute facilities expansion.


Anjalaxmi is from Sanjeevnagar. She went to school in neighboring Alankuppam and has now been working at the Earth Institute since 1995. She primarily works in maintenance around the Institute's facilities, but has also participated in building projects such as Realization.


Sarasu is from Karavadikkuppam, near Pondicherry. She has been working since 1998 at the Earth Institute in maintenance of the facilities.


Hari is a temporary worker at the Auroville Earth Institute. Born in Nepal, he has been working in Auroville since 2011. He mainly assists with preparations for block production and construction site tasks.


Ayus has been working at the Earth Institute since early 2014 as a temporary worker. He comes from Rajapur in Nepal, close to the border with Uttar Pradesh. He finished his schooling through Ninth Standard. In Nepal, he worked in farm work, growing wheat and barley. Then when he first arrived in Tamil Nadu, he worked in Kuila Palayam doing house work.


Gopal comes from Rajapur, Nepal, a small municipality close to the border with Uttar Pradesh. He went to school through Fifth Standard and later worked in farming in Nepal. After coming to Tamil Nadu in 2013, he did housework in Kuila Palayam. In late 2013, he joined the Earth Institute as a temporary worker.


Dinesh has been a temporary worker at the Earth Institute since early 2014. He comes from Shantapur in the Bardiya district of Nepal, where he went to school through Eighth standard. This is Dinesh’s first work experience.


Ajai is a temporary worker at the Auroville Earth Institute. He was born in Bardiya, Nepal, where he went to school at Janata High School, Gola. Now, he is studying Business Management at Bardiya Yobad Rajeepur. He has come to Auroville to finance his studies and works primarily in block production and site preparation.


Saram is a temporary worker at the Auroville Earth Institute. He was born in Nepal and studied through 5th Standard there. Since his arrival in Auroville, he joined his brother Hari to work at the Earth Institute on construction site tasks and block production.

PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY OF SATPREM

Since the early 1980s, his endeavour has been based on the adaptation and renaissance of traditional techniques, use of local materials, participation of individuals and the reconsideration of the role of the architect: from creator and builder to animator and psychologist. Since 1985, the endeavour to revive traditional techniques and local materials has been essentially based on the use of raw earth as a building material.

With this background, the field of action was oriented for several years towards humanitarian help and small-scale training in developing countries. But this quest was unsatisfactory and imperfect, as the main dimension was missing, namely Spirituality. While conducting a training course in India, the circle was closed. Auroville was discovered, and the choice of a new and different life decided upon.

Since 1989, Satprems life has been dedicated to Auroville, India and the World for the recognition of our Mother Earth, while using its matter for the sake of sustainable developments. His life is offered to the Lord and is dedicated to Karma Yoga, the work done as an offering to the Divine, for the Lords Action upon Earth. The research conducted with the earth as a building material is focussed upon discovering the consciousness hidden within the material. The contact with this consciousness helps the latter to evolve, as well as our own consciousness.

Satprem's fields of research and action are based in Auroville, for building the first city of a new era. His expertise and intervention are not limited to Auroville, and his services are offered worldwide. 30 countries benefited of his services over the last 25 years, for periods varying from a few days to a few years. Since 1989, Satprem has trained more than 6,908 people, mostly Indian nationals, but also nearly 1,085 people from 68 other nations.

Today, the architectural research being conducted by Satprem integrates symbols and a holistic approach to life. A life where men and women must melt themselves into the environment, while using sustainable techniques and energies, and evolve spiritually so as to rediscover again their cosmic origins. Since 1992, the Sanskrit surname Satprem, meaning Truth and Love, has replaced the birth surname, Serge.

 
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