Alex in the quick mock-up on site

04.09.12 | starting on site

As soon as we got back from Delhi, we decided to start working on the site in the school. We felt it was important to be here on a daily basis, to understand the rhythm of the place, to get to know the children, teachers and parents… and to become part of the school community as early as possible. We were offered use of a classroom, to use as our studio space, and decided to do some basic renovation work to make it a dry, secure and happy place to work. The first step was to cover the tin roof in plastic sheeting to make it water-tight, and then to replace the plastic corrugated skylights which were leaking badly, and so dirty they hardly let any light into the spaces below. We applied these simple solutions to the entire block of classrooms, and it was amazing to see how quickly the rooms were transformed. In fact the whole atmosphere of the school has altered in the last week: Kiran has relocated one of the best teachers, Reena, from the main school at Inder Road to Chandar Nagar; we have a number of Indian volunteers working to help us with translating and errands etc; and kids from the local area have started flocking to the school in the early evening to check our progress and find out how they can help. We’re also getting to know Mina and her husband, who live on the site as teachers and caretakers, and their three kids – who are pupils at the school.

The school is only open until 2pm, which means our day is nicely divided into a morning with the kids, when we can run workshops with them and their parents, and a quiet afternoon when we can get on with some work. So far, we’ve measured the school to draw a site plan, and made our first material order for bamboo and fabric so that we can start mocking up spaces 1:1 in the playground. It’s a great way to engage people in what we’re doing, and encourage an interaction with the design process.  We’re very lucky to be renting our apartment from Kapil, a local architect and construction manager, who has a small office and workshop right next door to our place. We’re frequently passing by his carpenters hard at work making beautiful window and door frames, and every time we see Kapil he imparts some of his abundant wisdom about materials and construction methods. But his knowledge doesn’t stop with architecture…his garden is full of wonderful medicinal plants that he’s keen to share with us, and in two days time we’ll be starting our daily 6.30am yoga classes with him!