Earth and Gold

Tamil Nadu, one of India’s southernmost states, is home to two of the most surreal places in the country. The first is Auroville, a utopian settlement neighboring the former French colonial outpost of Pondicherry that has become a stronghold for sustainable building techniques. Founded in 1968, the town of Auroville explicitly aspires to “realize human unity,” resulting in a distinct brand of retrofuristic and earthen architecture.

A few hours drive from Auroville is the region of Chettinad, an inland cluster of villages that boasts a vastly different kind of architecture. These villages house the crumbling mansions of the Chettiar bankers, which have become poignant testaments to the endangered status of the Indian extended family and the fleeting prosperity that once came with expanded trade routes. The Chettiars made their fortunes as lenders in South East Asia in the 1850s and used their newfound capital to build eclectic multi-family houses, collages of the world’s most opulent materials. These houses now lie largely vacant, many divided by the splintering of joint families. Their descendants, unable to sustain the incomes needed to maintain them, have left to find new fortunes in nearby cities.

These etchings depict a series of water tanks encountered in Auroville and spaces within the mansions found in Karaikkudi, Athangudi, Kothamangalam, and Kanadukathan.