Workshop on domes with mud, 4- 8 Jan, 2018 – Chattisgarh, India
Here is a simple story of how a Mexican dome (boveda mexicana) came to India in 2018. (I am sure it has been here before, but this particular one is my experience).
Three years ago, I was amazed to see the structures built my architect Ramón Aguirre Morales of Oaxaca. He took me in as a child and a disciple and showed me the basics of a mexican dome, I have sweet memories travelling several times to Oaxaca from Queretaro to learn to build from him.
A year later when I attempted my first project in mexico for Rocio and Jorge Camacho who showed trust in me in spite of my lack of experience on Mexican soil. We set out on building domes with volunteers and amateurs, but soon found a strong direction with the presence of the world renown masters of mexican domes.. Andres Flores Castaneda of Cholula and then later on with James Anthony of Washington DC. The learning curve was steep initially.. and it still is even after 2 years of building. Andres and his brother built this 8m x8m dome effortlessly in a week with minimal help and at such a meager fee.
I then physically over – loaded the dome (to get the design of a stepped amphitheater above the dome) and went beyond my calculations by 30% to still find the dome structurally very very stable. Minimum deflections, in spite of a Live load of more than 3o persons added to the 24 ton dead load. (We are by now far ahead of a typical concrete slab). This dome now defies all rational thought known to us!
After a few workshops with Andres, and closely observing James, I found myself sufficiently brave and keen enough to teach and build one in India. (my first attempt 3 years ago had failed, in a workshop in Hyderabad).
My chance came when I first got to know Ritesh Agrawal the collector if Jagdalpur, Chattisgarh. This humble civil engineer turned IAS officer, is fearlessly fighting building conventions and actively looking at skill development in his district. They have set up livelihood colleges where traditional skiils in the arts and crafts are being taught. Local tribals are bring taught adobe brick making, rammed earth, earthen plasters and what not. He is actively looking for artisans who can teach as well as teachers who can build. (I fit the second category). He organized a workshop at livelihood college Jagdalpur. Jan 4-8 2018. He received me with great care and preparation – all organized to immaculate detail.
I tried my best to introduce the essential concept of the mexican dome – building though intuition. No guides used, no threads drawn, no calculations made… nothing except using the body and the posture (a dance as taught be Andres) to form the curves of a dome. More than 60 participants witnessed this phenomenon – intuition being a more powerful approach than rational thought.
Here are the facts for the ones who ask the unromantic questions.