it's a space! a mason completing the adobe walls between the toilet and the classroom

18.05.13 | defining the interior spaces

Perhaps spurred on by our imminent departure, the site is gaining momentum every day – and we sometimes find ourselves drawing details into the Rhino file that have already been made by the construction team! There are of course some delays (it would feel weird if things were running totally smoothly)… the most frustrating this week being the shuttering walla, who came for a day and then disappeared for the following five. Eventually he recommended someone else who arrived yesterday – so we’ll finally be pouring the rest of the ring beam tomorrow.

Taking down the form work – an exciting but tense hour or so – didn’t quite reveal the vault we were so excited about…. we had forgotten to use a release agent like engine oil on the form work, meaning that the final layer of mortar had bonded to the underside of the bricks :/ Days of chipping away the mortar ensued, but yesterday the vaults were at last revealed in all their glory, ready for pointing (neatly applied mortar between the bricks). The first flight of stairs are now complete, along with the slide out of the back of the building – which is already tempting the small people (there were two pairs of tiny hand prints on the newly poured concrete).

We’ve also laid the front step into the building, and – after multiple trips to our friend Anurag at the metal shop – tomorrow will be casting the footings into the verandah columns. These can be used for both the first floor structure, or the covered verandah – depending on how we decide to proceed with the project in the coming week. The spaces in the toilets are becoming more defined: the partition walls are up, the lintels above the windows are being cast, and the exterior mud walls are nearly complete.

Tomorrow the plumber is coming to install the pipes and will finish mounting the sinks and taps by the middle of next week… meaning we’ll be ready at last for the fun part, mud plastering. After a few days of miscommunication and confusion, we finally found a mother who could teach us the recipe for the local white paint which is applied on mud plaster: rice and water! The mixture is crushed on a wooden board with a straight-edged rolling pin, and then applied by hand directly onto the mud. At first it’s clear, like a varnish, but dries within a few seconds of application to a beautiful bright opaque white. Depending on the conditions it can last up to a year – but is definitely something that will need to be reapplied and looked after on a regular basis. Given the remit of ITRHD (to protect rural heritage), and our desire to keep these types of traditions alive by placing them in a more contemporary architectural context, we’re really hoping this is something the community will take responsibility for after we leave – and for the rest of the building’s lifetime.

With similar intentions, earlier this week Leika, Ivar, Arvind and Kamlesh Ji made a trip to the near by pottery village of Nizambad to commission a series of ceramic lamps. It was really nice chance to design something with the potters that they had never made before – and a great opportunity to tie the project in to one of ITRHD’s other focus areas. It’s in part the woven metal doors of Nizamabad that have inspired our design for the project doors – steel frames with bamboo infill panels that will be made by local craftspeople. We’ve also been looking closely at the woven hand-held fans that the villagers have started using to fend off the rising heat. Our neighbours have a particularly beautiful one from Assam, with a black and white woven geometric pattern. In one way the design of the doors reflects the design of the building as a whole – the concept of an overall frame work that can be filled in a variety of ways depending on local materials and craftsmanship. Seeing how these types of elements would be adapted if the building was constructed in a different region would be a really exciting next step to the project.