Tuesday, January 24, 2012

malkha in Chennai, & other matters

There are still a few days left till the end of the Dastkar show at Kalakshetra, Chennai. Malkha is doing well and could possibly have done better if we had more stock, but we had to keep some in reserve for the Kala Ghoda Festival next month. Here is a picture taken by Hema of Fractal [now called Microspin]

We now have a consultant, Sudheer, volunteering to advise on how to improve the productivity of the malkha centres, and he with our D Srinivas, and Krishna Kumar & Arul from Fractal have begun with Burgula. Krishna Kumar increased the yarn output by 75% a day for the last 2 days, but the reeling is proving to be a bottleneck.

Meanwhile the building of the new malkha centre is going on with the few hands that are available. Among the helpers there are 2 or 3 who are working well and one who is outstanding. We have lost skilled carpenters who have been offered work abroad by agents who are constantly on the look-out in the villages. However, one who had taken up such an offer has now returned.

Sadly local building skills have eroded significantly. Masons and helpers alike have got used to using trowels for cement rather than for mud building, so they smear the mud onto the walls with no regard for keeping the stone parts clean. Golak has devised frames and instructed in plumb line use to ensure that vertical lines are straight and proper leveling of horizontals.

The walls have reached last brick level at 8 foot height and we are now ready for the roof and door & window frames. Bureaucratic hurdles have delayed the sawing of teakwood which will take another week. The building even at this stage looks quite magnificent, with slightly outward canted stone walls. Golak is introducing wooden brackets shaped in local traditional styles which will support the tiled roof. The logic of the building is to ensure that there is plenty of light and air. There is an open courtyard in the centre as found in local traditional houses. There are also elements introduced from other regions, like the upward swing of the roof-ends as in North East India.

Golak, Sivanandan & Sula joined us - Sarita, Usman, Suri Babu, Bhanu & me in Elantakunta on 21st.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Golak our architect friend who is building our new village-based work centre needs to be encouraged to record his observations on what he call 'vernacular architecture'. What he has done in the way of documentation is just a small part of his vast repertoire of knowledge of local building techniques in different parts of the country.

Here for example is his commentary on the image above:

'Structure system of a heavy roof with Mangalore tiles set in a thick layer of mud. Tie beams over column/ door level and there are props( not entirely like a truss!) that holds the next layer of structure which in turn carries closely placed rafters which are not very deep(3”x3”). The next layer is thin wooden slats/ planks which acts as a false ceiling cum structure to hold the layer of mud which could be as thick as 3”. All this eventually works as a solid integrated/ monolithic structure which has very high insulation value. The fear of tiles flying off, or shifting with small wind pressure or monkeys and civet cats breaking them does not arise. Now I throw away all the details various innovative ideas I have had to protect tile roofs!'

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The first exhibition of malkha in Chennai begins on January 20 under the umbrella of Dastkarand will run for 10 days.... Here is the invitation, do visit if you are Chennai based.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A peaceful and productive 2012 to everyone.

The images are of the structure that is to house the new malkha production centre in a village in Karimnagar district, Andhra Pradesh. It is designed and built by Golak Khandual our friend-artist-architect whose specialty is to make persons with little formal education or training into confident and capable carpenters and masons. He is working his magic here, ably assisted by Sarita Dhawan, our civil engineer cum village everything.

Golak re-introduces local materials and local building techniques, to produce habitations and work spaces that are airy, comfortable, light & cool with the least use of energy-intensive processes. Absolutely in tune with the malkha philosophy!

Walls are made of local undressed stone and are being plastered with the rich red local mud.... more in later posts.