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The House of Roger Anger and Jacqueline

 

 

An amazing combination between sculpture and architecture, the splendid expression of Auroville's chiefarchitect Roger Anger breaks the mould of the conventional code of 'four walls and a roof habitation'. A graduate from the classical 'Beaux Arts' in Paris, Roger came to India in 1956. Home to him and hiscompanion Jacqueline, the house has an incredible timelessness about itself. A product of the 60's movement in architecture, with Roger's background as a sculptor, painter, artist, architect, planner and above all a visionary, this house built in the early seventies even today is as contemporary as contemporary can be.


As I approach the gate, beyond, there appears a fantasy arising out of the ground in the characteristic red earth of Auroville. The path winding around, the water body, the landscaping with its sculptures are subtly orchestrated mutually enhancing the interplay of ideas as it culminates into the grand finale….. the abode itself. The roof rainwater is choreographed to run an almost theatrical course through various levels of sculptured volumes to drain into the water pool surrounding the house.

The path forks in two directions, one leading directly into the atelier and the other leading indirectly to the atelier! or as I may be allowed to put it as 'the maze'. I say to the maze because no matter how often I have visited the house, the access to the main house always eludes me. It seems intentionally misleading into the series of openings….(one to the guest bedroom, one to the bathroom, one to the atelier and one to the laundry room!). On asking Roger, I learn that the house was initially based on a different design for another client which was then abandoned after the foundations were laid and the columns cast. Roger salvaged the remains and redesigned the house around the existing work, which then explained the maze.

Essentially two-bedroom cum atelier, the house is a simulacrum of the life Roger and Jacqueline. It rejects any imitation or substitute and makes all makeshift a crime; nothing in the house is by chance, every detail has been carefully thought out. The interiors are on the lines of 'rationalism' with its essential lines and clutter free atmosphere to make beauty come alive in its integral simplicity. Such simplicity is necessarily not 'plainness'. Inexpensive materials and simple finishes ingeniously used with excellent taste give the place an ambience of class. It is a confusion of our times where style or class means necessarily indulging in velvet sofas, Italian marble, famous paintings or priceless pieces of pots and pans….

The granite paving from the outside continues as the flooring inside the entrance lobby with ripples of white tile (to be used extensively in a plethora of patterns inside the house). Here already begin glimpses of Roger's expressions in art. On continuing around the lower level (I am reminded that the house is organic!) that comprises of the studio and the guest bedroom, I encounter a surprise element in the form little green pocket wedged in between the two rooms completely obscure from the outer façade, which rebounds hallowed light into these spaces. The studio resembles a laboratory, a factory of ideas and concepts manifesting into paintings, sculpture and architecture. It gives a small peek into what forms Roger's vast repertoire as an artist.

The water body surrounding this level serves as ground for his floating art experimentsnbesides serving primarily as an 'ant-channel'; an absolutely-must combating the termites and insects of Auroville forming now successfully a part of many structures in Auroville.

The spiral staircase leads to the main house that is entirely on the upper level.The living room of black and white aesthetic opens out from the staircase-well into a barrier-free space nestling a study-alcove at one end. Roger's strong belief in the function and aesthetic of low-ceilings is more than obvious in his own house where it successfully executed at an amazingly low 2.5 metre height for all the spaces rendering them very intimate and humane. The flexible form of the roof has been achieved by the use of ferrocement which also gives the ceiling an impression of a 'false ceiling' by being able to accommodate the voids and modulations for light and other fixtures.

The design of the serpentine window grill is exceptional, redefining the concept of this security element employing again the innovative use of ferrocement. Its originality gives the room its characteristic panache. Almost all the art objects, paintings and sculpture in the house are Roger's own creations with a few intersperses of Tanjore paintings and south Indian bronzes. The wood and fabric chairs have the essence of George Nakashima (of the 'Peace Table' and 'Golconde' fame).

Part of the seating area and most of the storage and display has been designed into built-in modules eliminating the need for obtrusive furniture. A sculptural display partition divides the living room from the kitchen.

The unconventional organic form of the building does not reveal the interiors easily. What may be generally apparent in other houses is baffling in this one. The plan seems to be of a yin-yang juxtaposition around the staircase well. I miss the bedroom that is tucked away behind the sliding door at the staircase landing. Then again on entering the bedroom, the bathroom space is completely hidden until a few more steps after which it opens out totally, embracing the bedroom making it one. With the exception of the intimate area, the washing and dressing area with the cleverly hidden built-in wardrobe is one with the bedroom. The ingenious play of the white tile pattern provides the subtle differentiation to the spaces. Every room in the house opens out to a refreshing little balcony or a terrace.

At every corner I notice awesome detailing. Roger's fine eye encompassing the micro to the macro has unmistakably swept over the entire house beautifully orchestrating it leaving me spellbound and inspired. It moves me to think of the fervor, of the passion dedication and commitment that prevailed in Auroville in the early years (60's & 70's) of the pioneers who with limited resources and manpower tried their utmost to take architecture to a high form of imagination and creativity coupled with functionality and context.

- as published in "Perfectten"
(Couple's homes) Jan-Feb 2002
The House of Roger Anger and Jacqueline
Text written by: Sheril Castelino
Photos: Pino Marchese

 

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