Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Red Earth of Goa

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Goa is a little state on the west coast of India. It is popular as a tourist destination for its sandy beaches and whitewashed churches and colourful temples. In this blog we will journey through the nooks and corners of this 3702 sqkm state and discover its varied architecture. I am a civil engineer based in Goa and I never cease to be fascinated by the charm of my own land, truly a tiny piece of paradise.
The saga of architecture in Goa has travelled from rustic 'khomps' (huts of coconut thatchwork), rammed earth 'matiechim ghoram', temples built with rock slabs, Neo-Roman churches, Portuguese period 'solars', Art Deco houses, modernist buildings and back to 'green' homes! All these and other genres are still well preserved in the Goan countryside and cities. Rather than plod studiously through a linear path of architectural history, we will ramble randomly here and there and enjoy the fruits of serendipity.
Our first house is a little rammed earth home at Borim in Ponda taluka. Barely a couple of rooms with a tiny verandah, this house is striking for the beautiful hue and texture of its red earth walls. Rammed earth construction has been practised all over the world for thousands of years. In its simplest form, wooden planks are laid parallel on the ground and earth is rammed into this basic formwork. The soil is rammed by wooden poles or by feet. The earth sets hard and the form is then lifted to fill and ram the next course. Modern day RE construction uses highly precise plywood formwork and a cement-stabilised earth mix. Popular in Western Australia and other areas in Europe and the US, this modern avatar is yet to take off in Goa.
The outlines of the wooden forms are visible on the wall surface. The surface cracks are due to the clay content in the soil mix. A careful blend of sand, silt and clay can prevent cracks. Over the years, weathering produces a nice, rough texture.
More on this beautiful technique and the centuries old RE houses in Goa in later posts.

Cheers and Welcome

José Lourenço



Tushar said...

Dear Mr. Lourenco,
I am interested in the process and practicality of building a mud house in Porvorim, Bardez.
I understand that the process of building with Mud largely depends on the site of construction as also on any local expertise that may be available.
i would very much appreciate whatever valuable feed back / light that you may like to shed on this subject.
best regards
Tushar Shah

Tushar said...

Dear Mr. Lourenco,
I am interested in using Mud for building a house in Porvorim, Bardez area.
I understand that such a process largely depends upon the type of mud and local expertise (if any available)to be found on site, apart from the many other issues associated with such project.
Also, i believe one can make use of 'compacted mud' for which one would obviously need a compacting press/machine.Are such presses available in Goa?
I would greatly appreciate whatever feedback / light that you may wish to shed on this subject.
best regards
Tushar Shah

Jose Lourenco said...

Dear Tushar

Mud blocks are manufactured by M/s Pereira Pimenta who have an outlet in Margao.(Ph 2702949, Panjim: 2235991: 9850404459).

Mud blocks can be used conveniently for masonry walls and they have similar benefits as a Rammed Earth wall, though they would not cool the house to the same extent , since RE walls are much thicker. These mud blocks are of 200 mm width. For good cooling you could use double block width - 400 mm thick walls. Traditional mud houses in Goa are usually more than 500 mm thick.

It is difficult to get traditional rammed earth masons, though some old timers still build this way in Pernem and Sanguem. I could inquire and and get you some contacts if you wish.



Tushar said...

Hello Jose,
Much appreciate your response and the valuable information.
Needless to say i would love to have more details / contact coordinates of these "old timers" in Pernem and Sanguem so that i may continue to learn more about the process,present day practicalities and the pros and cons, involved towards building with Mud.
Warm regards

Antonio Dias said...

Hi Jose. I just noticed Mr. Tushar's comment. I just read an article on rammed earth construction by Hyacinth Pinto (Terra Firma)http://www.eril.co.in/emagazines/architectureupdate/2013/aug13/pageflip.html
If Mr. Tushar has not built his house yet, he could get in touch with her. thanks, Antonio