Wood House – Auroville / Wattle & Daub Walls

Posted here are some photos showing the process of the Wattle & Daub walls for the house, a beautiful and enriching experience. At first it was difficult to find the people ready to work on this traditional technique but after some time we got a dedicated team of six people who came every morning in sun or rain (Monsoon hit while the work went on in full swing) to set the wattle and then gradually fill the daub.

By now the walls are almost done, no more cracks are showing, the intense smell of cow dung and cow urine (part of the elaborate mix of 3 parts clayey red soil, one part sand, one part coconut fibres, one litre of fresh cow urine and one part fresh cow dung added just when applying – both provided by the most healthy cows imaginable) has further changed into something super healthy and nice and the house starts to look more an more beautiful.

The photos will speak mostly for themselves, so the captions will be rather short …

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Arul (the ever-helpful contractor) and Ravi (the head of the carpenters responsible for a large part of the wood work) figuring the best way for the support frame made of 1-inch bamboo.

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In the end vertical bamboo made the main reinforcement with Isaimulu (the leaf from a local palm tree) became the ideal weaving material. Both are held in place by a wooden frame fixed to the main structure. Both made for a big part of the overall cost.

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Splitting the Isaimulu …

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Initially we planned to also fill the sections with the diagonal wood braces but decided against it as the work would have been too time consuming. These will be covered with ply wood in the next stage of work.

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After the frames were ready the preparation of the complex mix started 🙂

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Two pits were dug out under the roof of the house as we needed rain protection with the onset of the North-East monsoon.

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Coir – an essential component giving strength to the wall … We initially cut them to 1-inch length which proved to be too short and the walls cracked much more than when we started to use 2-inch and even longer pieces.

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The cow dung, added just before the mix is applied on the wattle.

The mix of earth, sand, coir and cow urine is lightly mixed and left at least overnight to soak with some water. This is supposed to ferment the coir etc and help stabilize the final product. On the day of applying the mix, cow dung is added and the whole mix is treaded on with feet until we have a smooth paste.

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No child labour was employed, just our son having fun 🙂

For him the site and the process are a great learning experience.

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Finally the mix is applied …

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I believe the greatest joy – aside of the house growing of course – was to see how these “unskilled” laborers grew into the job; they talked about their experiences, their memories of how they used to do this kind of work in their villages. Everyone had to add something useful and it was/is great to see them connecting to their work and being proud about what they do – something quite uncommon by now unfortunately.

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Ponnappa – who soon became the supervisor and wattle&daub specialist – giving the final touch to a wall. Concentrated, dedicated, a man one with his work …

Thanks to all these guys who made this part of the construction into something special.

 

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