The Matrimandir: Honoring Piero Cicionesi (Pt 1)

 

Piero & Gloria

WHEN DID YOU COME TO AUROVILLE?
We arrived in Auroville at the beginning of March 1968.

BACKGROUND, OR SOME INFO ON YOUR TRAINING
Qualified Architects from University of Florence (Italy)
Training in Finland (2 years)
Professional activity in Italy (6 years)
Teaching experience.

THROUGH YOUR WORK, WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO FIND, OR EXPRESS?
The more the years accumulate and consequently one can see things in a larger perspective, the more we have today the feeling that quality references for architecture are closely related to qualities attributed to human beings. We think here of qualities defined by adjectives like sober, honest, correct, in harmony with nature, simple, sincere, intelligent, amiable, bright, elegant, wise, solid, alive, dynamic. As designers and sadhaks we try to express these attributes through our work.

When we arrived here in 1968, visiting Golconde, in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, we were struck by its beauty and fine detailing. The construction of this building was mostly done by ashramites and was directly followed  by the Mother: for both of us this became a driving force and inspiration to offer ourself, with many other Aurovilians, for the construction of Matrimandir.

For more than 20 years, from 1971 onwards, Piero following the initial vision of Chief Architect Roger Anger, has designed, organized, overseen, rectified and solved all sort of problems and guided Aurovilians and local workers in the construction of Matrimandir, starting from the foundations to the erection of the powerful rib structure, the triangular space frame, the solar tracking system, until the Inner Chamber was finally completed in 1992 and the sun ray started to shine on the crystal globe.

MATRIMANDIR

For 21 years, from 1971 till 1992, I have dedicated my professional skills to the design and construction of Matrimandir.
My activities began simply as a site engineer, guiding unskilled, voluntary Aurovilians and local workers during the excavation and foundation stages.
Unexpectedly, however, my responsibilities became far more complex.
As architect with a background in structural engineering I found myself in a crucial position to help resolve a lot of structural and architectural issues, that, at the time, were still pending or vague.
I collaborated, other than with Roger, with a young engineer from the Structural Engineering Research Centre (S.E.R.C), Chennai, Mr. Santhanam, who was in charge of the static calculations of the Matrimandir.  Successively, Roger Anger, the main architect of Matrimandir,  remained absent from Auroville for 9 years, which left me in the sole position to decide and implement important advances in the design and construction of the Ramps, the Outer-cover and of the Inner Chamber.
Roger, then, returned in 1987, and resumed his role as the primary architect for the Matrimandir.
He agreed to leave to me the responsibility for the Inner Chamber, where I continued my work separately, following Mother vision, as I am explaining in my note below.
My work consisted of designing and constructing the solar tracking system (Heliostat), choosing and purchasing the marble for the walls and the doors, procuring and installing the columns, acquiring and setting up the crystal globe, laying out Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s symbols and installing the carpet and the air conditioning systems.  All of these activities were finally accomplished in 1992.

Note about the architectural design of the Inner Chamber:

The Mother recorded with great precision Her vision of the Inner Chamber. Abstracts of Her conversations on Matrimandir were available from 1975 onward. The full transcription of the four conversations on Matrimandir, was later  published in “Mother’s Agenda, Vol.10 – Dec.1969 and Vol.11 – Jan.1970”.  Moreover, She provided or approved most of the basic measurements of the Chamber with a preliminary summary drawing made by Udar.  It was my great privilege to fulfil the delicate work of the Chamber under the inspiration and guidance of Mother’s very precise words.

[the above article was originally published on the Auroville website HERE]

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