Prem’s initiative in developing a river bank commune near Mysore evoked critical interest among many who sought additional info.
Prem Subramaniam’ response : I have been wanting to spend an active retiree's life in a non urban setting and towards this end tried to find a place where the weather is kind, water and access are not challenges, and proximity to an urban environment within easy reach. There are very few developers who would consider building just a few units on a large site and cluster them together leaving the open spaces as they are to be enjoyed even if titles maybe in individual names. Hardly any encourage a vernacular idiom of architecture combining native knowledge of conservation with other methods to live with less, seek elegance in simplicity, and to treat life as a celebration rather than renunciation.
What is happening are large gated communities and giving an illusion of an American suburbia. Or a fortress environment. My rough calculation indicated that for what you would now pay for a 1200 sq ft flat in Mysore, you could have a simple home as long as you got a few likeminded people together. Since it is difficult to find compatibility amongst a cluster of more than 10 people, the module I am working with is having a site of about 6 acres and developing only 1 acre on it in a cluster of about 5000 sq ft of common space and 10 units of about 1000 sq ft each leaving the 5 acres open and for mixed use of experimental farming and non obtrusive interventions.
In the course of my work I have been meeting individuals, from Uttaranchal, Himachal, and the North East and also from the Coorg area, who have achieved a measure of success. Their expereinces do not seem to have been adequately shared. I think just bringing about synergy between some of these would be interesting
At the present site I am testing land acquisition and transfer of title for urbanites like myself without any falsification or misrepresentation as well as using vernacular architecture and enhancing the open spaces with vegetation which blends with the natural habitation. Likewise experimenting with having environments suitable for what is already on offer in Mysore such as Yoga classes, small recitals/performances, etc
If we can, through this exercise, get adequate feedback to make the concept more robust and implement one site, and if this encourages others to improve/replicate, it would create the critical mass to consider providing additional facilities such as nursing, ambulance, and other medical help; help with services such as banking insurance e -mail, legal advice, extending a retail environment for local produce etc and make living in a non-urban environment a far more universally acceptable option.
On the outskirts of Pune, Satish Magar has created a township called Magarpatta by consolidating the land of local farmers and aggregating 300 acres with a 20 acre central green surrounded by 12 Commercial high rise buildings with residential, recreational and other facilities moving radially out. The original landowners retain the prime sites with bungalows. It has taken him 10 years to get to his current state but what is laudable is the desire to carry the original stakeholders and ensure that they remain primary beneficiaries.