W2016 – Day 12 – Proud of our work

And…here the toilet and all of us!!!

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W2016 – Day 11 – Last efforts

We all love it!!

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Today being the second-to-last day of the workshop, we were to complete the final steps of the design. This included both, lifting the roof and painting the prototype. We were slowly beginning to realize that the roof would be too heavy to be supported on two thin points of the walls. Muthu confirmed our suspicion when he said, “There needs to be a pillar in the centre to support this”.

In the morning, as soon as everyone gathered, we lifted the roof together. It was quite the task to get it into place but as soon as it was up, the prototype looked complete and the workers exclaimed, “The design is very beautiful!”. After this we began to mix the cements with the pigments and to mix the colours and begin mixing.

After the break, we continued to document the work by taking interviews and pictures of all the workers and students alike. Many of us began to realise what exactly we learnt through the entire workshop and began to reflect on many mistakes and misconceptions that occurred. Tomorrow being the last day, we have a few site visits planned and of course more group pictures!

W2016 – Day 10 – Assembling

The toilet prototype is almost finished…:)

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Today was the day we were all anticipating. The day of the assembly. In the morning, when we arrived at the work site, we found a small pick-up van waiting for us. The workers began loading the first two walls onto the truck only to find that a crack had developed on one of the walls while lifting. The walls were really not designed to be carried in a horizontal orientation. However, slowly in three trips, we got all the pieces without excessive damage to the site of assembly.

At Sonali’s yard, one group continued to work on the Fullfill Homes’ windows while the other helped with the assembly. Once the walls came up, we realised that holding them together was going to be challenging. Currently, they are held together by a temporary bent bar of steel, but the falling apart of the walls was one problem we hadn’t truly visualised. So tomorrow, before the roof goes up, and before the paint goes on, we will need to find a solution to ensure complete stability of the structure.

W2016 – Day 9 – Learning more and more

The beauty is in the simplicity! – Jean Pougeault, Engineer

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Today was the first day that Sonali took charge of the workshop. First thing in the morning, we were at the workshop of Engineer Jean Pougeault in front of the Matrimandir. Every passing minute, he continued to impress us with his knowledge and went on to show us innovation after innovation. But the raw engineering that caught our attention was just as beautiful as it was ingenious. “The beauty is in the simplicity!”, he exclaimed in his thick French accent. Later he took us into the Matrimandir and showed us various trapdoors and hidden chambers that the common visitor would never get to see or perhaps even notice. After three hours of observing and learning, we thanked Jean for his enthusiastic guidance around the area and went on to have lunch.

In the afternoon, we went straight to Sonali’s house in order to check on the workers who had already begun working on the foundation for the toilet. The spot was already chosen beside the Fullfill Home Prototype. We continued to discuss the various colouring options and Maria made some coloured sketches to visualise the options. Tomorrow, we will begin to colour the ferrocement pieces and begin transporting them to the site of assembly.

Slowly we are inching towards the end of the workshop, and so far everything has gone really well. Tomorrow being the assembly, we will have to do some heavy-lifting but it will be great to see the erection after one week of hard work!

W2016 – Day 8 – Colours

Yes, in Tamil Nadu, we like bright colours! -Muthulingam

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Today we began the second week of the workshop by splitting up into two groups, one who made a visit to the Matrimandir, and the other who checked on the situation at the workshop.

Once we were all gathered at the workshop we began discussing colours for the parts of the toilet. Looking at the palette that was prepared in advanced, we all decided on pink. Later, Muthulingam said, “Yes, in Tamil Nadu, we like bright colours!”. He was quite excited when he mentioned, “Pink is a good idea”. And so we confirmed that the combination pink, green and white would be used for most parts.

After lunch, we gathered at the Wall House for a presentation by Anupama on ferrocement. It was interesting to analyse where the technology began and how it was taken forward in Auroville. Since it was her last day, we asked her some final questions and agreed to meet again in Madrid for the final sessions of reflection on the whole workshop.

W2016 – Day 7 – Sunday Sunset

Visiting the amazing temples of Mahabalipuram!!!

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“After working hard all of this week to get each piece refined and cast, we took Sunday off to see the magnificent temples of Mahabalipuram. Comparing them to our own ferrocement experiments, we learnt that these temples are entirely formed out of the existing materials in the area. The temples are monolithic yet finely carved and crafted. It was a fantastic experience to see these temples in all of their glory and stay until the sun set on the horizon.” (Claire Bazeley, Student)

Meanwhile, back on site our hardworking masons continue to realise our prototype. They used the now complete roof module to cast the sink, and remade the two doors as finer pieces. By using only chicken wire, it is possible to reduce the thickness of a ferrocement piece from 2.5 to as little as 1.25 cm as the concrete does not need to cover the thicker reinforcing bars.

We now have only the last wall piece to plaster before the assembly can begin.

W2016 – Day 6 – A busy day

Many exciting things were happening at the same time…

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This morning, in spite of being two people lesser than usual due to illness, many exciting things were happening at the same time. The next two walls were being cast, the floor was already being cured, and the roof was finally ready for demoulding.

 The floor had a slight error when it was cast but was easily fixed by the workers by using an electric saw. Luckily we spotted the error before the floor was fully cured which made fixing the error easier.

 Next it was time to lift and demould the roof. Muthu spent at least half an hour trying to make sure that the roof was not stuck to the mould. When it was finally unattached, we lifted the roof together successfully. There were a few cracks and some of the steel was exposed but it was still in one piece. On the other hand, a piece of the mould came along with the roof and hence the roof mould was damaged.

 Tomorrow, we will demould the second wall and hopefully it turns out to be as easy as the first wall.

W2016 – Day 5 – Demoulding

The first piece!!!

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This morning we were quite excited because it was the first time a piece was completed and was ready for demoulding. The first wall piece came up quite easily and contrary to our fears, didn’t stick to the mould at all. We then left it to cure with moist mud on top of it.

But immediately after this, we were faced with our first difficulty of the day which was the design of the sink and how to cast the sink using the mould of the roof since they were similar in shape. We came up with various design solutions for the sink and finally all agreed on one that we liked and one that could be casted using the roof piece as a mould instead of the mould itself.

After solving multiple problems of the roof and the floor, the roof was left to cure for another day and we began to plaster cement onto the floor cage.

W2016 – Day 4 – Testing Ferrocement

Flexional, torsional and impact forces

Day 4_03_Affordable Habitat_Anupama Kundoo_UCJC Winter Workshop 2016_Akshid RajendranDay 4_02_Affordable Habitat_Anupama Kundoo_UCJC Winter Workshop 2016_Akshid RajendranThe morning has started with the visit of Luis Feduchi, dean of the UCJC architecture school, and his team. We have done different mechanical tests in a finished ferrocement piece of the toilet prototype to understand its behaviour.

The test has consisted of subjecting the piece to flexional, torsional and impact forces. The impact test has been one with particular interest to discover how the ferrocement acts in terms of security.

The piece we have tested today has three layers of chicken net and a perimetral steel reinforcement and has satisfactorily responded the aimed results, which we can summarise in:


1.High flexibility of the model because the charge is always homogeneously distributed in the hole surface.

2.The impact is absorbed in the center of the piece avoiding the extension of the fracture.

3.Good quotes of security even suffering extending damage.

4.Shedding material into small pieces, with little or no risk.

5.Ferrocement is similar in its behaviour to laminated glass; in the form of fracturing; in its flexibility; and in the fact that the midpoint is even stronger than the perimeter.

Day 4_01_Affordable Habitat_Anupama Kundoo_UCJC Winter Workshop 2016_Akshid RajendranThe day has ended with the setting-out and execution of the soil piece, which has sparked an intense debate about the transmission of its weight to the ground.

The cover of the toilet prototype has just been completed and now is ready to be cured.

W2016 – Day 3 – Steel Matters

In such a structure, is it better to use more steel or less? – Anupama Kundoo, Director of the Workshop

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The roof model was finished when we arrived at the work place. The most interesting thing that they set fire to the model to speed up the curing of the cement. It is beneficial to save time in this manner as the mould doesn’t require as much strength as the actual roof.

The roof model was finished when we arrived at the work place. The most interesting thing that they set fire to the model to speed up the curing of the cement. It is beneficial to save time in this manner as the mould doesn’t require as much strength as the actual roof.

On the other hand we noticed that we were using too much steel in one of the wall pieces and Anupama put the following question on the table: “In such a structure, is it better to use more steel or less?” We debated and hence concluded that it is better to use a chicken mesh and less steel. This makes it safer during disaster relief because the cement intertwines with the steel and hence doesn’t crumble. Moreover, the steel corrodes easily when used in such a thin structure.

We had also done an experiment on a piece of weak ferrocement wall to observe the way it breaks when force is acted upon it. The main observation was that the pieces breaking off were too large to be considered safe. We then inferred that the mesh used in this case was too large in size. In the current wall, the mesh size has been changed and in the future, we will be experimenting further with various meshes to see how they react.

Finally we had the pleasure to interact and have a discussion with Engineer Jean Pougeault helped us address many of the questions we were tackling. He affirmed the conclusions we had made about the steel. Furthermore, he gave us multiple ideas to work with regarding the door. He agreed with Xisco’s idea of using a pipe to reinforce the pivot of the door to the roof and we will be further resolving the door in the coming days.

W2016 – Day 2 – 1:1 Scale

Understanding technical aspects through 1:1 on-site drawings

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Students began today to finalise the formwork for a member of the ferrocement modules of the toilet prototype. Real scale drawings act as a good tool for understand and communicate the idea on the building site.

“By drawing 1:1 measurements in chalk on the floor we were better able to communicate with our masons, refine our forms & discussions and ultimately grapple with the realities of producing each piece.” (Claire Bazeley, Student)

W2016 – Day 1 – Landing in Auroville


Again in Auroville working inside the full fill prototype!!!

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Students has just come from Spain landing in the ground reality very fast.

Inside the prototype we built last year in Chennai and then rebuilt in Auroville we have already started to understand the possibilities of ferrocement and the way of producing it.

“Today was our first day on site in Auroville and the first (second and maybe third) of many challenges to come. While we cannot match the masons for their skills, we have found an equally important role in insuring the ideas we have are realised. We are learning to work with the possibilities of ferrrocement and the mistakes we have made and will make will only better teach us how this material is formed and how it functions.” (Claire Bazeley, Student)

This year we are going to build in ferrocement a 1:1 toilet prototype assuming that its a fundamental part to implement in the housing system “full fill homes” developed the last year.

“While many areas of habitat design have seen regular design advances over time, the design of the toilet seems to be one of the areas lagging behind. Apart from the ‘loo taboo’ that could be associated with this neglect, the toilet, though a spatially small area of habitat design, it could be considered to be one of the most complex ones.” (Anupama Kundoo, Director of the Workshop)

W2015 – Day 20 – The roof

One crane, one beam and four roof channels…

BEAM4BEAM6BEAM54BEAM2crainbeamThe most expected moment has arrived. This is the real test to see if the structure and the concept are successful. The position and assembly of the beam and the four channels has been really motivating. The system is working perfectly and the result is spatially and technically ideal. It would be amazing to have completed the roof…what a shame!

The workers team went home finally after 24 hour non stop and the night is time for the painters. We have designed also the surroundings and it is looking very nice. It is so late…but we are so happy!!

W2015 – Day 19 – The floor

The basement is a continuous blue – green  landscape that extends the home space into the surroundings. I like this color because it is not traditionally used and makes the house special – Anupama Kundoo, Architect


Non stop time for the workers. We have fixed the pieces with plaster of Paris drilling them into the critical points. The color and texture of the floor has transform the unfinished space into a smooth and livable atmosphere.

W2015 – Day 18 – Stiffeners and Erection

In India there is a special tradition about the act of posing the first stone: it’s called Vastu Poojan, and it needs to be celebrated. You need to choose the right stone because when the Vastu is good, there will be no problem in the construction…-  Sekar Sokkalingam, Contractor

ALLPIECESday18bvasthuday18cday18dday18fday18hIntense day drilling all the stiffeners. It was dark night when the erection started.  One important lesson for us is that from the beginning the model has really helped us to communicate the project to the workers. One unforgettable revelation undestanding the meaning of the firts stone.

At this point is so important follow the indications from V. Rangarao (who whatsapp us every minute asking for the status of the erection)

  1. Stiffeners shall be fixed before shifting. Holes for connecting two elements shall be done before shifting.
  2. Employ crane for lifting.
  3. Workers shall stand on robust platforms.
  4. Try out with gypsum before shifting as it sets fast and does not give much time to adjust.
  5. Hold the assembled elements laterally.
  6. Connect elements by at least one bolt of 12mm dua with thick washers at top and bottom.
  7. In addition, use clips as suggested to hold pieces together.
  8. Please workout sequence and share with me.

As you can see…the night has been long and “it’s been a hard day`s night” again…it is amazing the energy of the workers and our high level of adrenaline feeling how the project become real.

Day 17 – From Auroville to NASA

Life without Humour is an absence of humility which traps all those who think that in order to be ‘canvasser’ of spiritually it is necessary to be serious – Roger Anger’s diary, late 1970s.



It’s been a hard day’s night…and I’ve been working like a dog…

Yes…this morning we were in Auroville talking about new cities, new projects and the concept of “essence” and “beauty” in the Town Hall of Auroville…with the words of Roger still in our minds we have arrived to MIDAS Campus, a new ambitious western style University Area…The contrast has been amazing…

Anyway, the pieces have travelled in the track reaching the place at nine and the basement is done. It was so late when we finished but the good thing is that now all is ready for drilling the stiffeners and proceed with the erection.

Day 16 – Ground Reality

And our house took land into the site…

day16_0day16bday16cDCIM109GOPROG0409510.It has been so nice beginning the day visiting the Golconde, a Guest House owned by Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. It is the India’s first reinforced-concrete building!!!. The Golconde was designed by the architects George Nakashima and Antonin Raymond and was constructed by the members of the Ashram in 1942 under the direct supervision of The Mother. It is so surprising the unity of space, structure and material. The slats are amazing… Extremely modern for the period.

Today we have been working in parallel: one team on the building site defining the position of the basement in the ground; other team casting the beams and channels and organizing the transportation; one third team finishing the model in Ricardo’s carpenter workshop.

All must be ready for tomorrow!!!

Day 15 – Concentration

The Matrimandir has notthing to do with religion, or meditation: it is a space that comes from a vision of the Mother, a Space of Concentration! – Fred , one of the original founders of Auroville

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day16bDCIM109GOPROG0489529.6:00 am : V. Rangarao explained to us how to perform a stress test, but we didn’t actually do it because of lack of electricity!!So he helped us to finally dimension the roof beam: an amazing ferrocement vierendeel-like beam with H profile.

After we finally went to visit the Matrimandir: this is the symbol of the unity of Auroville, designed by Roger Anger: an absolute space that though the use of the solar light provokes really deep sensations in the visitor.

In the afternoon Anupama Kundoo invited us to have a tea in her house: an experimental project, her bachelor house, where she experimented many of the technics she keep using in the nowadays practice.

While the work continues, at night, finishing the drawings with the right position for the stiffeners and to design the beam and the roof channels, we realized, talking to each other, that the last question of V. Rangarao was: do you believe in God?

Day 14 – Stress contours

to understand the stress contour of a force applied on a surface, imagine to press with a pen on your skin: the “pain contour” you will feel is the equivalent of the “stress contour”. It’s the same thing – V. Rangarao, Structural Engineer

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The fist test: piling up 3 modules in the formation that will define one corner – it was very successful. The flexion of and the bending are very little, you can sit on it and nothing happens…but tomorrow seems we will meet our structural engineer, Prof. Rangarao, and we will try a “stress-test” to check the resistance of the object…really old style!

In the while today the door was casted: a complete ferrocement door with 3,5 cm thickness that goes decreasing to 1cm to reduce the weight: we are really bringing to the limit the thickness!

In the afternoon we paid a visit to a structure our engineer did here in auroville: a ferrocement Dome for the Auroville RSC,  the Scientific Research Center. The ribbed dome, that recalls the ferrocement structures by Nervi in Italy, was really impressive, even more for the “unfinished” status, that gives somehow the impression that it could be an endless monument….

After the visit we have finally met our structural engineer: Venkata Rangarao, an expert in ferrocement. With the attitude of a consumed showman, this amazing master explained us several principles to increase the structural performances of the concrete elements we have been designing. From the shear moment to the superficial slide of the material, in the end everyone was delighted by the simplicity but effectiveness of the explanation. In the end we all went home with some homeworks to do….

Day 13 – Back to the…roof!

We are running out of time…but we don’t give up!


DCIM109GOPROG0379507.Today was intense: once arrived back in Auroville we discovered that our model was destroyed by the spirits…or by the Pongal…we don’t know. Anyway we are going to do it in wood now, thanks to the help of Riccardo, and Argentinian man with an incredible story that runs the Auroville wood workshop, and kindly offered us his support and help.

The discussion about the roof becomes definitive today: the ferrocement  need the curing time of a week, and we are running out of time. That’s why today we got to the definitive decision for the roof design (thanks to a lot of models!) and we agreed to  a plan of construction. Once the pieces are finished we will transport everything to the Midas Campus, where our prototype will be exhibit in front of the main conference hall of the NASA Convention 2015, one of the major architecture annual events in India – that this year got to the 57th edition-  with a forecasted participation of 7000 people.

The idea is that the construction will be a on going process, involving the volunteers from the Midas University, with build up od the roof main beam and of the roof channels as final live-performance event….We are looking forward to it!!!

Day 10 – Trip Trap

India is like an ice-cream: overtime you carve a piece out with you spoon, immediately it melts and the sign is lost in the flow….



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From the 16th to the 18th of January the entire Tamil Nadul is celebrating the Thai Pongal. This is the Tamil Havest festival, and it’s celebrated with music, mandalas and special food.

We took the chance to travel a bit around, in Tamil Nadu and souther, towards Kochi, Allepey, Kerala and Munnar…

Sleep bus, ricsaw and boat…We have seen a wonderful sunset in Allepey channels, all in the boat. In the middle of the palms. We fell into the chinese net!!


In Fort Kochi we bumped into a very interesting Art Gallery called “Spice Fort”:  here the work of of Daniel Connel really surprised us… His installations –  especially the ones where he transforms old-fashioned indian furniture into surfaces for cultivating flowers and plants with hydroponic – are really inspiring. What can be the relationship between the memory of the past and the human interaction with the living natural environment?

Day 7 _ Mandala

…if you don’t use your hands with this colors it’s not working..the powder wouldn’t brake…you can’t use gloves!!- Anupama Kundoo, Architect

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If you go around any rural village in Tamil Nadu you cannot ignore the beauty, the geometrical precision and the colors of the Mandalas, drawings that the housewifes prepare in front of their doorsteps when the sun rises. Decided to know more about this amazing practice, we asked the help of the women from the village to do our own Mandala on the wall of the construction site. This was the perfect introduction for the color-tests for the the concrete surfaces and floors of our prototype. Mixing by hand the primary color-oxides that Shekar bought, with white cement powder and white marble sand, we tried to reached unexpected colors…anyway, after a while, it was clear to everyone that the palette we were looking for was there, every morning, in front of our eyes ….Proportions: 1part of oxide, 5 of white cement, 1 of marble sand.