There’s a large new shelter at pointReturn now. It is a 1,000 sqFt at the ground level, another 1,000sft 8′ off the ground, and further up, there are two sleeping lofts, of about 200 sFt each. I like to call it the pavilion.
The choice of name rests on my fondness for cricket; a pavilion is central to the game. Players feel a proprietary right over the pavilion, and it belongs to them for the duration of the game. There they rest between their labours, observe the happenings, discuss options and pick the next moves based on the evidence on hand. pointReturn needed such a place too, to review plans and progress, to meditate on outcomes and to correct course as necessary. So I call it a pavilion.
I imagine it to be a centre for all activities. The ground level will house a library, an Internet connection and a work bench, still leaving a large floor area free for whatever need arises . There is also a verandah -an additional 300 sFt- which will be set up in a cafe mode where residents may sit and shoot the air. The first level above ground is a vast space that can be used for meetings. It will also double as a dormitory for up to ten people without feeling crowded. Further up, there are the two sleeping lofts.
Adjacent to the pavilion on the ground level is the existing kitchen with two wood fired rocket stoves. Close by on the other side of the pavilion is a washroom which is still under development.
Balancing costs, speed of execution, total embedded energy of materials, user comfort and ability to withstand storms common to open spaces, I picked on the construction style popular in Auroville near Pondicherry. I shall explain it in some detail in a moment, but first some speculation on how the technologies might have come together to create robust structures which have come to be referred to as ‘capsules’
It is fascinating how waste products of groves and plantations have been used to create products of wide utility. After the coconut has been dehusked, fibre in the husk is separated, carded and spun into ropes, thin as a twine to as thick as needed to moor a ship. Going back at least 1,000 years, ocean going ships in India’s west coast were built without a single nail. wooden scantlings were sewn together by rope and caulked with pitch. Coir rope has reigned irreplaceable till this day. It’s available in every corner of India, in many sizes. Fine coir rope is the tie-cord in traditional hut building.
Coconut palm leaves have for millennia, been hand plaited into mats. Lightweight, flexible and good for 3 years, these mats are laid on roof slopes to form as thick a pile as possible. The spathe of the palm that encloses coconut inflorescence maybe discarded by the tree once the flowers are exposed, but the rural Indian finds it makes a stiff yet pliant thong with which to tie down coconut mats on the roof frame.