Saturday, November 17, 2007

Stone and earth

From steel and glass towers, let's jump back a few centuries to the rammed earth houses of Goa. Built by ramming moist earth within simple wooden formwork, these mudhouses are still standing in every taluka of the state.

This old sentinel is perched on the left side of the Margao-Varca road at Benaulim. Door and window openings were framed by laterite masonry. The window of this house has a segmental stone arch. Rodents have carved out holes in the bare walls. Mudwalls were generally plastered with lime-earth plaster. But perhaps some owners left those finishes out of their budget. I personally love the look of bare earth walls, they reflect the colour of the soil in that locality. Corners of the structure were also usually reinforced by laterite pillars as seen in the next photo of a house near the Partagal monastery in Canacona.

But many houses were built entirely with rammed earth, without any laterite masonry reinforcement whatsoever. Check out this house in Bandora, Ponda. The separation crack at the left is a result of poor bonding or settlement, but does not seem to pose any structural problem for the functions of the house. Quite tall walls, about 5 meters high. The surface has been well weathered, giving a rich coarse-earth texture to the exterior. Perhaps some cement paint company will come up with a look alike surface one of these days, if the rammed-earth look becomes fashionable. Faux rammed earth!

And when a mudhouse has been abandoned by its owners, the old maxim 'Dust thou art and dust thou shalt return to' comes into play and the old house crumbles back to the earth. Note the laterite pillars framing the corners with the rammed earth panels in between them. Shell windows were very popular in Goa at a time when glass was a luxury. The artisans of Siridao still make them.

1 comment:

Yogish said...

Nice post!

Especially - 'Dust thou art and dust thou shalt return to'

Such houses seem to be more connected to nature/earth.