the three barrel vaults in the classroom

18.06.13 | work continues on-site independently

The end of our first stint in Hariharpur drew to a close at the beginning of the month, and after various journeys, Alex, Clem and Ivar are now back in London – squatting in a small office on the top floor of No. 39 Bedford Square (AA HQ). We’re here for the next two weeks, finalising the master plan drawings and preparing the Project Harihapur book – which will form part of the exhibition here in November. Leika is based in Norway, putting together her extensive research material for the book, and Kritika is back in Delhi – where she’s on call resolving problems and keeping track of the site from afar…being as wonderfully efficient as always! She’s also been back to Hariharpur for a few days (escorted by her lovely friend Shantanu) and will be going again once or twice more before we get back, to oversee the work and make sure things are going as planned. Arvind’s been working hard on the ground full-time until today, and the project will now be overseen by Anshu (who came briefly during the Visiting School, and will now be working with ITRHD long-term) until we come back early next month.

After a few tentative rain showers, the monsoon has now started in all its glory – great news for the farmers, not so ideal for mud buildings construction! Thankfully we got the barrel vaults completed in time, but as the second roof structure isn’t up yet, the walls aren’t protected by the deep eaves. Additionally, because the slab hasn’t been cast yet, water has leaked through the holes in the barrel vault made for the electricity ducts. Nothing is beyond repair, but it’s frustrating to have to re-do work… so it’s time to buy a lot more plastic and make sure every inch of the building is covered!

Apart from the rain, things have been going smoothly – the plumbing is now complete, with all the sewage pipes connected to the septic tank. The curved brick retaining wall for the reed-bed surrounding the tanks (design courtesy of the Kamath Design Studio) is coming up, and will be plastered with cement, before being filled with earth as soon as possible so it doesn’t become a big water logged pond!! The electrical ducts, which run through the barrel vault and along the top of the roof have now been laid, so that the slab can be cast later this week. Electrical wire will then be threaded through these as one of the last steps once the rest of the building is complete. The mud walls surrounding the classroom and stairwell are coming up; doors, which are designed but not yet fabricated, will be installed on our return.

After Leika and Clem left the village, Alex Ivar and Kritika stayed on for an extra week preparing a document for ONGC (the Indian Oil and Natural Gas Company) – following on from their visit to Hariharpur at the end of May. The application for funding from their CSR department is currently under consideration, so fingers crossed that comes through and work on the rest of the master plan can start soon! Back in London Alex, Clem and Ivar met up with the Ramboll engineers to go give them and update and go through various issues that have come up in the past few weeks. We’ve also had a meeting with Chris Pierce, who runs the AA Visiting School program, to show him the latest images from the site – and talk about future plans and projects. It’s great to be back in the big smoke, catch up with everyone, and sleep under blankets at night (what joy!) but it feels a bit weird not to be at site, so we’re looking forward to getting back there soon!