a parent presenting her ideas for the toilet

30.03.13 | day seven building community iii

Today’s account from Leila Thackara, an AA Visiting School participant who’s starting her masters in architecture in New York this autumn.

Another day of digging, but most of us were now accustomed to the tools and their various benefits so we were able to lift the pace. Pick axes and ‘backwards shovels’ (the technical term) were used for breaking the earth, spades for clearing it away, and axes to straighten the sides of the trenches. We enlisted the help of a couple of labourers to speed things up and onlookers young-and-old pitched in when we showed signs of flagging (including an elderly man in a loin cloth who the girls affectionately dubbed ‘six pack’).

The engineers had settled on the dimensions of the trenches (70x90x400 for the front and back walls; 70x90x600 for the side and central walls which will support the load of the barrel vaults) and wouldn’t be moved. It probably doesn’t sound like much but digging through sun parched earth by hand with the temperature hitting the 40C’s took all the strength and motivation we could summon and we were relieved when the sun finally sank below the trees. We find it’s best to avoid working the middle of the day so we continued late into the night and as the gasoline lanterns were brought out we started to look less like architects and more, as Clem put it, like Victorian grave diggers.

Then as if we hadn’t creating enough of a spectacle, the Uttar Pradesh press arrived on the scene to take our picture for the morning’s paper.