AHW2015 – Video 3 – The prototype

Video on an imaginary occupancy of the house

<p><a href="http://vimeo.com/118452557">AHW2015 - Video 3</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user36290536">affordablehabitat2015</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

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.

Day 6 _The House

from 1:10 to full scale



Today we are dealing with one of the fundamental constructive-problem of the prototype: how to join the elements and fix them together. Basic but not so easy…The discussion with the engineer V. RangaRao – in connection by phone form more than 500km away – was really intense: he is suggesting to use metal bolds as connectors, and even hard plastic as spacers. The “original idea” is to avoid this kind of expensive solutions….so we will have to invent something different! RanaRao suggested also a new solution to optimize the roof structure, so we are also dealing with the effect that the new roof would have on the interior space.

In the while we have finished the model base and got the first impressions of the interior form the 1:10 scale model. The new idea that came up is to build in ferrocement as many components of the house as possible: from the door to the furniture . It seems we are going to have some extra-fun with it!!!!

Day 5_ Polychromie

The color is a way to transform a modest house into a rich home – Anupama Kundoo, Architect



Ploychromie in Architecture has always been one of the most controversial theme in the academic discussion. But in India, and likewise in many developing countries, there is nothing academic about it. Between discussions and color tests, today was the day of colors….

Day 4_ First Results

To experiment new ways


The first set of pieces are ready and the result is really convincing – what is clear now is that we need to find ways to optimize the process and record the amount of work and material needed to fulfill the construction in the most efficient way.

“We aim is not only to learn the local technic, but to study what is the usual routine of work to increase the expertise. This becomes the base to explore new possibilities and increase the affordability of the entire process: register and monitorate the process becomes the new priority”

Day 3_ Ferrocement

An affordable technic to develop a cost-effective construction system






Sand, cement bags, iron bars and steal mesh. Eleven specialized workers and seven designers. The first group are the ingredients to create ferrocement. The latter are developing together the project – from the process of design to the process of construction and vice-versa.


Day 0_ Workshop preparation

An affordable habitat for the human life,

 an essential dwelling-unit prototype built in ferrocement

Start: 7th January

image1a– wooden cast, in progress

Since several days, before the arrival of the workshop participants,

the local team of support lead by Anupama Kundoo

has been working on the technical aspect for the project realization….

-2 days to go,

stay tuned!!!