Principles of Design for Ecovillages and Spiritual Communities –
A Seminar by Peter Fleury
A week-long seminar on the design of Master Units was held January 2-6, 2014 at the Ananda Kiirtana, Master Unit, Juiz de Fora, Belmiro Braga, Brasil. It was well attended by 45 individuals and led by Peter Fleury. Peter, a professional architect and landscaper, addressed the following areas of community design:
inner and outer ecological balance
analysis of the site and planning
community organization of cooperatives in four areas – housing, agriculture, medical and education
sustainability and self-sufficiency
the symbiosis between the spiritual community and the surrounding society
implementation and long term growth of the community for protecting spiritual heritage for future generations
the future of organic agriculture
The week long seminar was divided into five modules:
1. THE VISION
The first module discussed the vision of Master Units. Master Units are referred to in Sanskrit as Cakra Nemi: the hub of the wheel. As such Master Units are designed to be the nerve centers for surrounding societies; the future model of new ways of spiritual lifestyle, new education systems, new energy and farming techniques, new economic structures, new health systems, etc.
Existing Master Units started as a variety of service projects for helping the down trodden rural villages, but grew into models of ecological balance for both outer ecology and the economy, and for inner ecology and psychology. These projects were often founded and run by Acaryas, and adjacent to Ananda Marga communities. Each Master Unit is unique, yet all strive to have some basic projects: school, clinic, agriculture, meditation hall and living quarters.
2. SITE ANALYSIS
The second module focused on how to do a site analysis. Using existing maps, aerial photos, and field surveys, participants learned how to observe and analyze the total natural environment including the surrounding local communities, roads and utilities. After this they proceeded to drawing a plan.
3. SITE PLANNING and DESIGN
The third module focused on zoning and collectively designating the best uses of the land including areas for the projects, Acarya living space, family communities, agriculture, preservation, etc. Several drawings and plans with options were made.
4. PROJECT COOPERATIVES
The fourth module was divided into four project cooperatives:
a. The Education Cooperative – from kindergarten to retreats to adult education programs to RU seminars
b. The Medical Cooperative – from the ambulatory clinic near the local village to the main campus clinic to the Wellness Center up in the mountain valley as well as medicinal gardens and products
c. The Agriculture Cooperative – from maintaining native forests and seed collecting to companion planting, permaculture, to soil community microbial inoculations, spiritual farming, tractors and spaders
d. The Housing Cooperative – deals with the existing homes, new homes and dormitory development, maintenance, taxes, utilities, rents and payments. This was closely connected to the last module:
5. ADMINISTRATION-ECONOMY-LEGAL STRUCTURES
During the fifth module, it was determined that private ownership was not the best model for a sustainable spiritual lifestyle community. A variety of collective ownership models were explored and a legal-administration cooperative was set up to research how to make that transition (there are some good models – Ananda Cooperative Village in California, USA.)
Those that signed up for this cooperative, will have to discern levels and requirements of community membership, take polls/surveys to determine priorities, coordinate the design department (architects, engineers) with the maintenance and construction depts.
The master plan developed shows the whole-time Acaryas living in the central campus area along with many of the projects that they will help run on the boards, with the 3 communities of 16 homes each in nearby and outlying areas. The members will decide the names of their projects, roads and communities honoring the inspiring Sadvipras (enlightened leaders) who have shown the way.
By the end of the workshop each participant had volunteered to serve on one of the cooperatives. The ever-present higher love and guidance was felt internally and collectively throughout this workshop to make a living model of spiritual life.
Ananda Kiirtana, Master Unit, Juiz de Fora, Belmiro Braga, Brasil
SITE ANALYSIS CONSIDERATIONS
Location vicinity: Service to neighboring communities, Symbiotic relationship-needs-jobs, not too far, not too closeSurface Water availability and Fertile Soil- On site water patterns
– On site soil maps
– On site vegetation
– On site animal patternsWind and solar orientations, seasonsExisting structures, circulation patterns, history
SITE PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS
Best areas for agriculture (water, soil)
Areas to be left for preservation, sensitive ecology
Beauty spots for all, introspection, spiritual
Concepts of community for housing:
-Indigenous designs, Mandan, Hopi
-Clustered housing, front porches, pedestrian
-public or private, courtyard
Community Center, Programs, Commerce Markets, Amphitheater
-Public or internal community
PROJECTS – ECONOMY – COOPERATIVES
Education Cooperative: Neohumanist Schools, Retreat Center for seminars, programs in Yoga Psychology
Housing Cooperative, pool, donations, loans at house value, interest, rents, maintenance, taxes, salaries, insurance, investments, rent credits
Membership, Dedication, Karma Yoga Internship, Yoga Lifestyle Training, how to serve, experience, lessons, LPT, LFT, WT
Village councils, Boards, elections, meetings
Development Timelines and Sites for the community and for individuals.
Peter Fleury has served on the committee planning the Anandanagar master unit and in addition has helped in the design of master units in India, Russia, Italy California, North Carolina, Brazil New York, Mexico Canada, Guatemala, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois and Oregon. He is the owner and business operator of Oasis Garden Inc., a landscape architecture, construction and design company. http://oasisgardens.com/