Pongal Celebrations around Palani’s house. The festival includes breaking a sugar cane into small pieces and sharing it around the group.

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30/12/2011: Cyclone Damage in Pondicherry.

These pictures were taken from the front of Good Guest House on the morning of the 30th of December. 

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16/12/2011: Site Visit

Brick construction completed on stairs and surrounding thinnai. Surfaces ready for granite mosaic finish.

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Site lunch: 03.12.2011

Myself, Mark, David and Jateen tucking into a ‘site lunch’ using Sharanam banana leaves.

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The nature of Sharanam.

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The Beauty of Irregularity


When one thinks of India, the mind wanders through a chaotic mix of colours, noises, tastes and textures, encompassing the huge Hindu stone temples of the past, the iconic Taj Ma Haul and a maze of streetscapes awash with activity. Life in India surrounds you with extremes and one must allow oneself to sink into the energy of the different cities, towns and villages they experience to begin to acknowledge a new urban landscape. A landscape not focussed on beautiful things, but rather centred upon the irregular and the informal. If you imagine the famous saying that ‘beauty is only skin deep’, then I urge others to immerse yourself within the flesh of Indian culture and for a moment forget about the economic and political problems that every country faces on a daily occurrence. If you locate yourself amongst the complex, haphazard, self-made structures of shops and market stalls, then you will truly find the point where India lives out its daily life.

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Site Visit: 29.11.2011

I began the day with one full functioning step! After the experiences of the day before, we started by simply drawing out the correct dimensions of each step, using water tubes to confirm the levels. The timber formwork was discarded and instead brick formwork would be used and each step will be given enough time to harden and set. A maximum of three four steps will be produced in one day, with the mason returning over the week to slowly build up towards the roof.

The steps are being constructed at a height of 36 cm, leaving a 1 cm gap for cement and a 3 cm piece of granite to finish the tread.

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Site Visit: 28.11.2011

Part II - 

A timber formwork was built to aid the mason in constructing the individual steps. The steep incline met that the process was becoming overly complicated and lengthy. A box was formed that could be simply put into the correct location and infilled with cement and bricks.

The third step was built using this formwork, with the mason filling the box with cement and only using two bricks at the top to form a level surface for the final piece of granite that will create the tread. There was a conversation that took place as to whether or not to use more brick and less concrete to create a lighter structure but a decision was made to try and use only concrete.

As the final touches were made to the third step, the formwork became loose and slid down the slope, disturbing the second step. By the end of the day, we had one finished step and questions as to how to best support the structure as it is built.

 

One major thing I learnt through this experience is to never get dishearten by the problems that you have to face on site. Thinking on your feet is tough when you have workers baring down on you for answers but this is a skill that will be learnt over time. The construction will begin again tomorrow, using the knowledge that we have learnt today. The steps will be a mix of concrete and fly ash brick, building both sides of the stairs to allow for greater support. The most important factor will be allowing enough time for the concrete to set before the next step is completed.

 

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Site Visit: 28.11.2011

The day on site began at 10.00 am and first thing was to help Palani explain to the mason the structure of the stairs. This explanation was tough as it was clear at times Palani’s understanding of the design was different from my own. Eventually a clear, defined layout was drawn out and the construction could begin. A major problem was how to support the bricks and cement on such a steep angle, something I had discovered in one of my earlier visits on site. We discussed the solutions and agreed that a base coarse of bricks could be built, using sand rather than cement so these could be removed at the end of the day. 

A brick formwork was put in place and cement filled into the gaps to begin the base of the steps. The composition of the step changed from my original design to be a small triangle of cement, followed by three brick coarses. The mason then fills in behind the bricks with more cement to create a solid piece. The formwork began become more difficult as we moved up the stairs. Again discussing the issues with the mason and Palani, we decided to create a timber box, which could be held in place and infilled with bricks and cement.

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Site Visit : 28.11.2011
Site lunch with Palani, all served up on a banana leaf. No knives and forks needed, just the correct technique with your right hand.

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Site Visit : 28.11.2011

Site lunch with Palani, all served up on a banana leaf. No knives and forks needed, just the correct technique with your right hand.

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