Beyond what the Eye Sees
My first impression as I got down from the car were the mud walls; brown against the lush green trees behind and the azure sky dappled with white wispy clouds above. As I approached, the clay tiled verandah roof and the curving cobb wall revealed themselves, adding a quirky touch to the whole picture. Despite the chaotic array of construction materials and dusty surfaces, the building looked beautiful, already belonging to the stunning landscape around. The walls accommodated a myriad of carved niches: some hosting hued glass bottles, and others empty pockets waiting for lamps and flowers. The verandah was being tiled, white Sadarhalli stone gleaming a welcome, as we entered the building.
Inside, the tiles changed to a geometric pattern, soothing despite its kaleidoscopic colors. Cement sacks relaxed on the first few steps of the incomplete staircase and unopened tile boxes leaned against compressed mud walls within which bottles lay horizontally, creating hangers! In the living room, bars divided the windows, providing safety at the cost of an unobstructed view of the flourishing farming lands and lake outside. Further in, the house splits into two bedrooms and a bathroom - the latter tiled a brilliant blue, and containing a wide opening at the south wall through which one can see more glass bottles emitting red and green light.
There were three groups of workers at site that day, two different groups of constructors and a fabricator group. All three were so starkly different from each other that I wondered how their work would come together in this project. The local Tamil speaking constructors were headed by a rather irresponsible man who didn’t show up at all to site that day, despite having confirmed that he would be there. The second group of constructors had worked with Studio Verge on many projects over the years and were more trusted. They were led by a boisterous and energetic individual; his presence filled every space he walked into, and every instruction given by the architects would lead to him trying to visualize it by building a replica at that spot! While we were discussing the design of the front steps to the house, he was instructing his workers in rapid Hindi to bring bricks and tiles and to stack them up, and then proceeded to show us how it would look, despite us having our own plans that we wanted him to execute! Contrastingly, the fabricator and his assistant had a quiet and calming demeanor, asking questions softly and patiently listening to all the instructions. These alternating personalities needed one to be versatile in conversation, but once you overcome these hurdles, it can be entertaining!
Above, the sloping roofs of the loft create the perfect vision from both outside and inside, as the walls carrying it hold more bottles that capture light from the east and the west! There’s a little curved balcony as you step off the loft, leading to the terrace steps - this wasn’t built yet, and so reaching the terrace meant balancing on a plywood board akin to the shaky plank that enemies of pirates walk off, accompanied by a climb up a quivering bamboo ladder! The plank of peril sits atop two walls between which there is a tiny wash area, designed to allow the dwellers to wash their feet before entering their house. A store room sits adjacent, and more bottles nestle in the exterior mud walls, giving a charming appearance as one walks towards the house. Finally, stepping onto the terrace, I got a sweeping view of the landscape, a bench situated for just this purpose.
Alongside the house, another small construction was taking place: the caretaker’s house. The team of local laborers were small (or so it seemed that day) as well as young, which made me think, how fast and early do they learn about construction and get placed with such jobs? To me, a mix of age groups would be vital in such a profession, as experience and knowledge would meet with energy and innovation, but I’m left wondering if it is possible to always have such a mix.
Despite the tiring journey to and fro, I have acquired a deluge of new information and questions, eager to further explore this world.
Akil Ravi is an 18 year old and is interning at Studio Verge for 5 weeks. She is interested in how to live sustainably in all aspects of our life, including the spaces we occupy.