The Windows

Morning meeting.

The glass for the windows arrived today.

The glass is being held into place be the windowpane.

And, just like yesterday, three groups kept installing the indoor cladding.

The local workers helped us by laying the steps which will lead up the slope.

And today CUI Kai visited our site and gave us a book.

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Plants, Shelves and Traffic Rules

We started the day by picking plants. Because of all the road work in the villages we often end up driving completely new roads to the site. On one of these roads we noticed a plant nursery. There are some huge greenhouses where they produce various plants. And right behind it, there is an area where they dump discarded plants. There we found piles of perfectly fine green plants. They have probably been thrown out because they became too big for their pots without being sold. But they will fit perfectly in the slope at our site. So now we are digging in the trash while the local old ladies and their cattle (in the background) looks at us wonderingly.

Inside of the building the inside cladding is being mounted.

In the middle of the day the materials for our book shelves arrived.

The only problem is that they have been glued so recently or so badly that some of them just fell apart.

The day ended with a lecture by CUI Kai, one of China’s most esteemed architects.

It lasted so long that we ended up learning a new Chinese traffic rule: after ten PM it is apparently not allowed to drive mini busses on the roads (or the village roads).

Half way to the hotel the driver just stopped the bus, turned off the engine and said he was not allowed to drive any longer.

Eventually some cars came to pick us up, but it got quite late before we were home. (And thats why I didn’t have time to update the blog before now – sorry)

Half A Day – Half A Lake

Instead of taking Sunday off, we decided to work all Sunday and take half of Monday off instead. So at one a klock on Monday we left the site and went to eat a long lunch at a noodle place not far from the hotel.

Then the bus driver took us to a lake where some people decided to swim.

Large parts of the landscape looked as if it had been underwater for a long time. As if enormous amounts of water have recently disappeared. Maybe there is a dam somewhere blocking the water supply. The underwater rocks – now revealed in fresh air – and the new, bright green grass – growing now where there previously was only water – gave the place an atmosphere of something slightly unreal.

The sun set neatly, right in the middle of two mountain peaks as the driver was fishing in the last rays of the day.

Many Visits Today

Now that the main parts of the building are standing we are encountering difficulties on a more detailed level. For instance we have a nice detail for leading rainwater off the roof and in to a hidden gutter, but we had no detail for how the water would be drained away from the building once it hit the ground. Now it looks as if we have to cut out a piece of the brick path and dig a drainage hole which we can fill with small rocks. But this detail is not finished yet.

It turns out that the tree which gives psrts of the site such comfortable shade carries fruits which has just turned ripe. Throughout thisday lots of different people came driving on motor cycles to climb up in this tree and get their hands on some fruits.

We also received some more official visits. The highlight of the day was when Karl Otto Ellefsen, the former headmaster at AHO, came to visit. And he brought many students from Beijing. This is the first time that the headmaster of AHO has visited a Scacity And Creativity project on site.

There were also many important Chinese people visiting us today. The only problem is that most of us never understand exactly who they are. So we just keep on working.

Now that the scaffolding is down we can finally begin to work on the landscaping.

The excavator was brought forth. The first thing the Chinese workers told us was that our building is a little bit too far from the sewage system and that we should have a septic tank.

The excavator quickly dug a hole, and the local workers swiftly built a brick thing which will become an under ground septic tank.

Before long the day was over and we were driven along the steep mountain roads, back to the hotel where we are staying.

Free From the Scaffolding!

Today when we arrived at the site, after one day at the Chinese seminar, the scaffolding had been taken down by the local workers. And finally we could see our building!

It is beginning to look good. It is still far from finished though.

Today we fixed almost all of the outer cladding.

By the help of some simple ladders we made by left over two-by-twos.

The niche in the brick wall is taking shape.

And so are the entrances.

The part of the roof which was mounted with untreated wood, because we recieved the materials too late, has now been painted.

At the end of the day we were in a good mood and decided this was a good time to photograph the Chinese workers who have been helping us all along. Only after they had put on their proper safety wests which they officially wear all the time. We also asked them to write down all of their names, so that we can credit them at our final exhibition.

In the evening we had a lecture by professor Ding Wowo.

An Involuntary Day Off

We are in a hurry to finish the building. And all we want to do is build on it. But you never work in a vacuum, and outer events will at some point inevitably roll in and distract you with surprises. Some of them quite pleasant.

AHO’s former headmaster, Karl Otto Ellefsen, happens to be in Guizhou this week. Last year he was made honorary professor at CAFA, the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, together with Rem Koolhaas (!)

He spends a lot of time in China and he invited us to participate in a seminar on the developement of the Chinese countryside. This is being proposed as an alternate strategy to the rapid urbanisation many countries, among them China, has seen in the last decades. This seminar would be held in a small village which the government already has spent many years and resources developing.

When we got there it turned out that it was all in chinese, and our presence was good for nothing, exept maybe to spice up some of the photos of the arrangement with some international students.

On the other hand we had an entire day to explore this village. It was very small, surrounded by steep green mountains and with large flat fields of lavender in the middle. The houses were cradled around these fields at the foot of the mountains. One main street led along the edge of this round and flat valley. From it you could take smaller roads which meandered behind the little stone buildings and up the hillside. At one point the main road opened up to a larger square with a huge tree. The tree was so large and stood in such a sloping terrain that I doubt that ten people could have held their arms around it. Around the tree they had constructed a complex set of stairs of rough natural stones. This is where the seminar was held – at low wooden tables under this magnificent old tree.

After about twelve hours (not joking) a lecture was held which was in both Chinese and English, which meant that we could understand it. It was held by someone from Hong Kong called Wang Weijen, and it was really good. Both architecture students and local villagers were sat on the huge stone steps under the old tree, listening to stories of high density urbanity and small village courtyards.

While we spent the entire day in this village we asked the Chinese workers, who had not been invited to any seminar, to start to dismantle the scaffolding around our building. So it will be interesting to arrive at the site tomorrow.

The Usual Morning Traffic Jam

Getting to the site is a new experience every day.

We often take different roads, because the roads, which are too small for our bus, are constantly being closed and repaired. Sometimes the bus gets no further.

One time we were stuck behind road construction and simply decided to walk to the site.

If is has been raining during the night the bus cannot drive up the steep slopes over the mountain with the weight of the passengers. So then the only way for us to get to our valley is to get out of the bus and walk over the mountain (or through the tunnel which is to small for the bus.)

Also at nightime, when we are going back home.

And on really lucky days this might happen:

Very often the traffic itself is quite interesting.

Today there was just a quite ordinary traffic jam. Because of all the construction in the Louna Valley the roads, which are suitable for motorcycles and small cars, are now packed with huge trucks loaded with construction materials. In most places the road is only wide enough for one of these trucks, so if you meet another large vehicle, the road quickly gets jammed.

Turning Up the Tempo

It is now only two weeks until the building needs to be finished. This day started with a meeting where we looked at how much time we have left and which tasks. We were also told about how previous Scarcity projects have been completed. One of the years the whole team stayed at the site, without proper sleep, for three days and three nights to be able to meet the deadline.

None of us wants that, so now we have decided to cut down on our 11 a klock break from 30 ti 15 minutes, and keep the lunch break (which starts at 13:00 reasonably brief.

The meeting must have made an effect, because on the east side of the building, the wall was nearly completed, and the window frames for the large windows were solved.

And at the roof the first section of the outer cladding was put into place.

Thanks to the outer cladding the building finally begins to take on the expression we want it to have.

Many other jobs, which are less visible, were also finished.

A New Phase

Internet can be a hassle in China.

Our blog is being hosted by WordPress which is blocked in China. So to be able to post anything on this blog we need to get around the big firewall of China. We manage this through a so called VPN service, which is a way of fooling the system making it look like you’re surfing from another country than you are.

When it works it works fine (just slowly) but very often it doesn’t work. So yesterday it didn’t work, but now we’re back up again.

The work moved on yesterday. We kept on painting the roof. And we started to work on the entrance to the site.

When you’re arriving from the road there will be a few steps up to our site. Where the old stone wall was torn down we built a new one of brick. the same type of brick that we’re using in our building.

The roof of the brick-part of the building has begun. This roof is slightly inclined to lead rainwater out on each side of the building.

And finally – finally! the painting of the corrugated steel sheets was finished and our building looks black at last. The next step is to add the outside cladding.

Is seems as though the work has now moved i to a new phase, where the visible progress will not be so great fro day to day, because we will find small situations that need to be changed or redesigned as we go as a consequence of the various imprecisions our construction has. In some places the building actually deviates a bit from the drawings, and some details were never drawn precisely, which means that we need to find solutions to these problems as we go along.

Some problems prooved to be notorious, and a small group stayed behind at the site, until way after dinner time, discussing the corners.