testing the white paint decoration on the mock-up mud wall

26.05.13 | mud plastering begins

This week we’ve been focusing on completing the toilet block, and preparing for the final interior finishes. Although a lot has been completed, the delay with the shuttering for rest of the ring beam – which has taken an incredibly long time! – has made everything feel very delayed; much of the work has been inside the two completed bays, so there haven’t been any dramatic structural changes. It’s also fair to say we are definitely behind schedule, and won’t manage to complete the ground floor before we leave, as originally planned. We have therefore decided to come back in early July, after a month in London reflecting on the work we’ve done so far and making the book about the project. It will be a great chance to finalize the design for the first floor, which has had to be re-thought due to low quality of locally available bamboo, and to discuss the structure with our Ramboll engineers in person.

This means that the meeting on Saturday with ITRHD and the British Council, which was supposed to be a ‘hand-over’ event, in fact turned out to be more of a progress update – and a chance to plan for the period that we’ll away in June. Arvind, ITRHD’s man on the ground in Hariharpur, will be running the project – and Kritika will be returning every two weeks to make sure that everything is going to plan on site. So we’re confident that things will be in safe hands! In a way, it’s a great opportunity to test how well the community take on the project without us being here. On our return we’ll be able to work out what’s been going well, what hasn’t  – and have a chance to improve things. It also means we’ll be able to see the building in its finished form, and focus on the final interior details that will really define the spaces. The weather is pretty intense now – up to 50 degrees celsius on some days!! –  so we’re all happy to return to the non-existent English summer, and sleep under a blanket rather than the stars. It’s not going to be much better in July – a little cooler, but much wetter, and mosquito ridden. We’ll just have to hope that the excitement of seeing the building through to completion keeps us motivated and in one piece!

Given how nice it is to see the toilet block taking shape, this seems very likely : ) The window frames are now all completed, with a layer of cement mortar, which sharpens the edges and contrasts with the mud plaster. Getting some of the mothers on site to do the plastering has been really great – it’s nice to balance out the construction team with some more women at last. Following on from last Saturday’s workshop, when the parents and teachers decorated the sample mud walls with paint, we were keen to plaster the walls of the toilet block with the final layer of ‘black soil’ from a local pond. This meant that the walls were ready for Mr Misra to symbolically plant two white finger marks on the doorway as part of this week’s workshop.  He was also part of the first tree planting ceremony at site, a mango tree as per the teachers’ request… which will be joined by many other varieties once construction is completed.

Yesterday we had another group of visitors, this time from ONGC (the Oil and Natural Gas Company), who have verbally agreed to sponsor the construction of the rest of the master-plan as part of their corporate social responsibility program. They were here to understand better what they would be supporting, and how the project is being implemented. It was good to meet them and hear their suggestions, which included introducing BALA (“building as learning aid”) into the interior design… something we’ve been talking about since our previous project in Dehradun, and will definitely be able to implement once we’re back in July.