Week#11

​On Sunday 4 we went to the village with Prof. Mantey, to talk more with the people about our mission here and we had the chance to look inside few traditional patio houses. Some of them were built almost 70 years ago, made by Atakpame, the local earth building technique. Mantey questioned people in the Twi language, about new contemporary earth architecture, as well as what they have seen and understood at the Art Village, where we are building the project. Apart from those who didn’t know about the new contructions at the site, some others showed much interest towards new earth building methods and we invited them to meet us frequently during the next working days. 

Sometimes, we get the impression that we are building something which locals don’t identify with, like an experimentation to far from the real community needs. For this reason we will now try to explain better how much affordable rammed houses are. In fact, using the new metal formworks the overall cost of walls decreases and it becomes cheaper compared to the cement block building, the most popular and aspired material nowdays.

Linda and Paolo, our friends from Italy came here on tuesday to volunteer! Soon they became part of the team, right after a day of digging and carrying barrows!

On Wednesday 7 we finally completed the T sections of the 4th level, which is quite hard to reach with no scaffolding but not impossible as we expected. By the time we start the 5th level we will need to find a flexible support to lift the formworks up easily.

Together with Beatrice and Gina, they all went on Thursday to the “big stone”, to take some amazing pictures of the tropical forest landscape from very high.

The week end has started with a great pizza at Nik’s, in Kumasi. We spent a night there and the day after we went looking for new nuts. Unfortunately the thread of many nuts we are using with the metal  bars is usually lasting no more than two or three day. We needed to find best quality nuts and we asked at the Asafo market, where people led us to the fitting shops. 

On the way back home we even stopped by the store to buy a new barrow, since the rooms filling needs more time and tools, and the ones we are using are quite in bad conditions.

Annunci

Week#10

“Harder than hard!” Oti pointed out. Faster than fast though! It has been only 2 weeks since the first level was rammed and we are already on the top of the third. We are all learning how to remove and set up the formwork quickly, combining pieces together, placing the metal boxes for the sockets, the angle sticks for the corner automatically. Abas looks very involved in this method and the workers are all satisfied about the result. The wall joints show clearly how the pre-fabricated system works, like many big bricks layed one on the top of each other. Where it is possible we are also trying to offset the rammed blocks to have a stronger connections between them.

Unfortunately while removing the formwork on Monday, a small corner next to the window frame broke down. Kofi took the decision to cut out a bigger portion of the wall and we suggested him to shape that edge to make a kind of joint. The next formwork was then placed backwards to ram again the missing parts and everything has been fixed.

On tuesday 30 the wet season stopped us! The rain was so strong that even the covering plastic sheets were enought to protect the earth. But again nothing happened. And we still kept on ramming!

A big hug to Amelie, who left Abetenim  almost after 2 months. Special thanks for all the support she gave us, for the positive behaviour, for her patient, for her strenght and good designing ideas. She really left something which will keep the construction alive until the end and further on. We will meet each other again! Best of luck Amelie!
Beatrice and Gina have just arrived this week. Ready to start and bring more point of views and energy. We also had some many visitors interested in this project, asking technical aspects and comparing costs.

Week#9

After 9 weeks we still keep our spirit high. The fast speed of walls construction let us actually believe we will finish this step on time. The teamwork of this week was incredibily effective. More the project grows more the motivation becomes stronger. 

To remove and set up again the metal formwork is a bit demanding in terms of time and effort. The T shape are more conplicated compared to the C and I ones, which are way faster. But the first layer plus half second layer are already done.

During the second ramming, it was necessary to place the metal box for the socket within the earth walls, along with the pipes for the electric wire passing through the wall until the top. We also thought it was necessay to insert some side wooden board on thr firs and second layer, in order to set a flexible fixing system for future furniture, such as shelves. 

Further, the volunteers help us in filling the foundation with more earth and digging the red soil for many mix. 

Adamu has joined the site for few days, learning how to mix and adding water with the right content, with Abas experience on his behalf. After Edward and Abas suggestions, we decided to work half day more, 4 days out of 5, to speed up the construction process. On the other hand we want to have more free time during the weekend to organize activities among the people from Abetenim and understand deeper this amazing culture.

Week#8

The rammed walls are about to start! 2 days yet to place the metal formworks and check any issues before starting. At this step we also need to make the timber frames for windows and doors, which will be connected within the earth walls while ramming. It has decided to do treatments against termites first and varnishing afterwards. On Wednesday 17 Edward and Abas worked with us mixing and ramming for the first day. Gradually the walls portions will rise up and thanks to the all volunteers who are joining us we will work restless until the end!

Here some pictures of the week. We also had some moments to discuss about technical issues related both to the overall design and specific details, and more improvements will come soon.

The metal formworks are quite heavy to carry and lift up. Secondly, the pressure of the ramming can bend a bit the metal plates, therefore we added some external supports.

After three days of ramming we have been optimizing the all process, setting the T shape formworks first, since they are the most complicated ones. Working afterlunch too, we will be ready to start the day after mixing very early in the morning and have enough time to ram one full formwork before breakfast, dividing then the T into a smal T and a linear form,  in order to ram two more pieces. With the I shape we can even ram 3 times a day. The mix we are using contains 8% of cement, while 10% sand and 82% of red earth and enough water, around three buckets. The maximum mix at the time is with 40 buckets in total, to avoid the cement to harden before castining it.

We will try to ask as many workers as possible to join this process, from the village and sorroundings. It is very important at this point to share the techniques with interested people and let Edward and Abas teach others through thier experience and passion.

Week#7

On tuesday 9 we took some rest from the construction site visiting the wonderful Kentampo waterfall.

In the beginning of this week we completed the timber formwork and started the pouring of the concrete on it. The process lasted three days, with the help of new volunteers just came. We are going to wait three days before removing the boards.

The team also assembled the metal feet for the pillars, ready to be place in the right position with some mortar on the bottom.

In the meantime we brought the metal formwork down to Abetenim square, to build a small sample of rammed earth to be used as a bench. 

Martina and Paolo organised few games for the kids and Edward and Abas showed how to mix and ram. Plenty people come to see and discuss or help. We all hope to involve more people as soon as the walls step starts. This event was definitely a great chance to trigger a public forum between us and the whole village.

After that we all moved to the site engaging the children with some painting activities and pizza!

Ben presented the Carla’s project in which he has been part of as volunteer for few months. The project is meant to be an auto-sufficient house, off grid from water and energy supply waste. It is a extremely interesting work potentially able to deeply improve the local living conditions. Check out more about it.

Lina, the columbian dancer from Vienna, organized her last dancing class at the site theatre, before coming back home. Late in the evening she also performed with four girls from Abetenim, putting together classical movements with african rythmes. Great energy, thanks Lina! Best of luck. Hope to meet you again.
Time to have a break. The trotro will drive us to Atebubu, the starting town for the wild trip to Digya National Park and the rural town on Kwame Dounso . We will be back on Sunday!

Week#6

This week the team is focusing on the timber formwork for the reinforced concrete ring on top of the stone foundations. The task is demanding, mostly because of the precision of measurements and levels. 

We visited the Shrine House in Besease, a local cultural heritage of Ashanti Region. The guide lead us through the history of that site, meaningful for the whole ghanaian tradition and customs. Further, we found out more about the construction techniques, its courtyard typology and concept, hoping to embody some of those aspect in our project at Abetenim. 

We rammed the fourth sample, using higher percent of sand, 10% and lowering the cement back to 5%. The interior surfaces were fold by plastic sheet on a side and dirty oil on the other side. 

It was added some wooden boards while layering, to test the possibility of flexibile fixing point for shelves and any kind of hanging furniture. On the edge we fixed the ending board within the earth, through a special lock system made out of a piece of wood and metal wire. This piece will meant to become part of the window and door frames.

The result is still good using plastic, otherwise the lower percentage of cement or over wet mix,  made some earth parts very sticky on the dirty oil side.

In the meantime, the painting process of clay stoves has started. Abu, Frank, Kofi and his son Ted has been working for few days so far. It would be great to involve more people on it, including children from all over the village. Many activities are yet to be scheduled and more volunteers are coming. Next week we will pour the concrete for the ring bond. Afterwards the ramming step will start eventually!

Week#5

One week more until the foundations are done.  

We decided to make a third rammed sample. This time we used plastic sheet on one side and “the cake” on the other. First layer of oil to make the surface waterproof and dust to avoid the earth to stick on the metal panel. The dust comes as a waste of the gravel we have been using for the foundation wall, filtering them once to make drainage stones, twice to obtain fine quarry dust. 

Both sides achieved good results, in term of smoothness and waterproof surface and resistance. The plastic one seems to be way faster then the other one though.

The percent of cement we used reach the 8%.

In the meantime we all went to the welder’s workshop to find the final design of the feet for the timber pillars, according to the cost of weldings, labour and time. We came out with the idea of cutting and joining the plates together without welding works. Kwame was really interested in developing this concept and he did a very precise job. Now we need to assemble the plates with bolts and spacer, ready to be poured within the concrete ring on the top of foundations.

Mattia and Amelie celebrate thier birthday this week, with special banana cake and pizza!

Unfortunately, Claire left Abetenim. We wish her the best of luck and we are truly thankful for her contribution to the site work and her energy! Also a big hug to Aleks! Enjoy your next project in Riga and thanks again for carrying all the stones!

On Saturday and Sunday we kept on working at the site. The metal feet are ready. Kwame went to Efiduase to make the holes since our bit was not able to drill the plate properly.

Dr. Mantey came back to Abetenim. This time we had the chance to discuss further about the involvement of the whole community into our project and how to let the people identify with it. We also arrange a schedule for the next activities at the site with all the volunteers and interested locals.

The team is now increasing: Alessandro and Rosalba are now part of this adventure. Akwaaba!

Week#4

Last week-end we had a short break from the work and we went to the Bosomtwe lake to swim and relax all together with Frank Cristine and some of the guys here at the village. Sunday we were back on site to help the plumber to finish his job before Monday, so that the mason can complete the next part.

The team is getting very close-knit now. We have been carring stones and digging earth for many hours these week, but not to laught with Odas is almost impossible!

On Monday afternoon we tried to understand with Prof.Mantey which type of plant we should include in the concept of the patio, inside the building. He suggested the cocoa tree, as a symbol of wellness, related to the enrichment of young people through learning. We then went to the forest with him to explore the local vegetation and find out how the cocoa tree looks like.

On Tuesday 19 we built a sample of our rammed walls, using 2% of cement and 9% of sand. Edward helped us in ramming and mixing and he is very qualified. The metal formwork should work, in terms of structure, but we still need to find the best solution for the outtern face, which seems to be sticky yet. We are going to try with palm oil, dirty oil and others.

The second sample was definitely better. We used 10% of sand and 5% of cement. The exterior wall looks very shiny and smooth, therefore it should provide a better waterproof surface compared to the wooden out-form faces. Many earth parts still are sticked to the metal so we will try to use other ways to prevent it such as plastic sheets on the inside and oil with quarry dust.

On friday afternoon we decided to go to Kumasi for a concert of MusicXChange, at the National Cultural Centre, with local drummers and dancers. The performance was part of a music project held by Federico Masetti and other musicians who help with music therapy inside the hospitals. We spent a very good time after, drinking few beers with them and listening to great music at nearby jazz club.

Week#3

​On Monday 11 we poured the concrete floor into the trench for the foundations with Odas, the local mason, Abas, Edward, Adamu and Amelie, ready for her first day at the site!

The day after the team grew up, involving new volunteers from all around the world. Luca, Aleksander and Claire will work with us until the end of July. Also Dr. Mantey from KNUST University of Kumasi, Department of Art, decided to join us for few days.

The still bender arrived to bend the reinforcement bars and rods to lay in the middle of the foundations to avoid vertical cracks of the concrete.

On Wednesday the new volunteers went to the village to analysis the context, following three topics: how locals use common spaces? which kind of craft are there? How to improve local earth techniques? 

On the afternoon Mantey held an interesting lecture about indigenous art and architecture in Ghana, followed by a brief presentation of Adincra symbols

On Thursday, the stones for the foundations eventually arrived! We are very glad to start.Fortunately they are enough big to use cement only as within the mortar, mixed with fine soil, instead of pouring it inbetween the stone. At the end, we won’t even need any still bars.

We called the plumber to set up the water systems for toilet, kitchen and the water tank which will make the building auto-sufficient. 

He estimated the overall cost for water system and he is now ready to start the next week end. 

We also visited the Bonwire village, famous for the traditional Kente clothes!

Many thanks to Luca, Amelie, Aleksander, Claire who are helping us so much in these days!

Week#2

​The workshop has officialy started! We have been digging for 4 days, marking the plan dimensions with the mason, Edward and Adamu. 

Before that we had to remove the eletric pole because the cables were crossing the site.

On tuesday 5 Dr.Mantey from the Art Department of Knust University in Kumasi visited the village and discussed with us about the main ideas and the way to connect our background to the local mindset of traditional ghanaian society.

We are going to use stones with concrete mortars, with some reinforcement bars. On thursday we went to the quarry to check prices and sizes of stones. In the meantime, Kwame, the welder is finishing the metal formworks, cutting the last angles and square pipes, so that we can soon make rammed wall sample to find out the correct mix. 

Many volunteers are coming soon. Amelie, Luca, Alexsander and Claire are going to help us from the very beginning of this construction, bringing more ideas and carrying loads!