Handmade at Ghuggukham

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Compartment S4 is an architectural firm of eight graduates from CEPT university, initiated in May 2017. We intend to provide well-designed built environments to not just the urban fabric but also the much neglected rural communities. Hand-made is a workshop series under the architectural firm Compartment S4 focused on the grassroots level design involvements.

content About handmade 1) Why hand-made? People About Ghuggu kham 1) Sense of Place 2) Local practices and people 3) Vernacular building practices The chowk intervention 1) Concept 2) Construction The school intervention 1) Site 2) Concept 3) Challenges 4) Construction process 5) Sequence of construction End Note Appendix




why hand-made ? Our journey in Compartment S4 began as a bunch of architects eager to intervene in different kinds of communities so as to give solutions which can have a larger impact on the context. Compartment S4 as an architecture firm emphasizes on the ‘power of many’, with the strength of eight architects working under one head, to combine our individual ideas into a pool of valuable inputs. With intents and interests towards the rural communities, involvement of local materials and systemic architectural solutions for specific issues, the ‘Handmade’ series was introduced. The handmade workshop series is a medium for us to ‘learn by doing’, by experimenting with local materials and techniques of building, while making sure to create valuable interventions in community based areas. Having identified the professional neglect to rural projects earlier on, handmade is one of the ways we aim to fill in the gaps with well-designed solutions. Most rural areas, are struggling within economic constraints and a blind acceptance of materials like concrete and steel. Our interventions through handmade brings back the importance of local with a deeper understanding of their daily issues as well as the context. Engaging people of the community is a way to create a sense of belonging to the place being intervened at, for a greater and long lasting impact. Involvement of people being an essential exercise of the workshop further activates spaces. Eventually the ‘power of many’ through the workshop is exercised in a way of team-building within ourselves along with other participants and communities. Making sure that as architects we are aware and directly a part of all stages of construction on site. Thus ensuring an economically, climatically, contextually and programmatically sound intervention.







sense of the place Ghuggu Kham is a small village within the Nainital district, Uttarakhand. It has a total population of around 400 people, with not more than 80 houses. The place is mostly a hilly terrain, with houses dispersed within stepped farms. Owing to its proximity to the bird sanctuary, the village chowk is a major transit point for many tourists. Along with a beautiful landscape, the area also has a large variety of birds, flowering plants and trees. The village covers the top of hills and hence suffers from scarcity of water almost throughout the year. The village community is tightly knit, well-connected to their individual family structures. People of Ghuggukham mainly engage themselves in farming and labour-work in and around the village. It has common facilities like schooling upto 8th grade, a hospital and a few general stores at the main village chowk. The general store is where villagers get their daily supplies from, thus transforming the chowk into a public space in the evenings for them. Now, owing to the increasing influence of tourism in Ghuggukham camps, hotels and other lodges have been built around. Tourism gives employment opportunities to the locals. Similarly, newer building materials like tin sheets and concrete have seeped into their building techniques. Restoring the genuine essence of the village within the tide of modernization along with an awareness of their daily issues, is where our efforts lie.

bird’s eye view of Ghuggu kham village

local practices and people Occupation and practices in Ghuggukham

labour work


income from tourism

camping sites around


vernacular construction details

slate stones


wooden logs

wooden cut sections

mud used as mortar

local stone for masonary

typical wall section 10

local building elements

niches and paintings around the house

slate roof tiles

mud plastered walls niches blue windows and doors wall paintings on the plinth

a typical Ghuggukham house 11


map of Ghuggukham



concept The main chowk of the Ghuggukham is a landmark for all kinds of people throughout the day. This chowk is occupied by three general stores, hence making it a place frequented by many locals, as well as tourists and drivers to stop for a refreshments break. The only sign of Ghuggukham existed in the form of a dilapidated, hardly visible board of Ghuggukham at the chawk. Beginning with the need to provide a signage to represent the essence of Ghuugukham, an intervention at the chawk was designed. The chowk itself behaves as a public space, providing an opportunity to make people aware of the local character and lifestyle of Ghuggukham. Hence a detailed understanding of the place and culture, was carried out to design the signage as a public intervention. The built structure is inspired from local elements of Ghuggukham, the stone plinth, niches, slate roof as well as their wall paintings. Within the structure a motion sensor is installed to detect a passerby and play soundclips. Eight soundclips inspired from the local practices and environment, like the sound of birds or local folk songs etc. are recorded (explained in detail below). These recording play at regular intervals, as and when a person passes by the structure. Since the intervention is in the chowk, continuous movement of all its visitors will constantly keep the sounclips playing. Since the built structure translates from local elements of Ghughukham and sounds of the place, a sensorial experience gathers a passerby. Simultaneously, reminding and acquainting them of the richness, this place holds within it.

Musical instruments

Folk Love stories

Himalayan landscape

Welcome to the village

Farming activities

Nostalgia of city dwellers


Animals and birds

Essence of the village

Beautiful pahadi lady

paintings on plinth (aepad)

niches used for festivals

stone slate used for roof


the shop wall at the chowk chosen for intervention

constructing a wall with niches for the Ghuggukham board and motion sensor with speakers installed within it


painting over the board and wall

the complete signage




The new building is an extension to an existing secondary school building in Ghuggukham village. The site is at the peak of a hill overlooking a lush green valley on which the village spread itself. Since the secondary school building had sufficient open space around it, the new building as well as the proposed play area sits around it.

concept Placement of the new building and spaces around it are based on, the space requirements of the students and teachers, as well as the context around. Rainfall is collected anf filtered to be used for school purposes, while the overall building is positioned to face the valley. Local materials and techniques are used for construction, simultaneously involving villagers and school students in the process. In general, the building system and techniques are designed as a prototype for the village to adopt from.




When the shutters are closed, the building behaves as an introverted classroom. With a blackboard on the opposite wall, students turn their backs to the shutter.

The new buildings’ face towards the valley is designed with shutters which open out completely. Providing an undisrupted view of the valley on which the school is situated.

The new school building is placed in a way to cause minimum disturbance to the ongoing activities of the school. During lunch time, the movement is regulated around the column of the building. The open space is designed to add to the variety of spaces to play and eat during students’ break time.

The open area is also designed to behave as a connection between the old and new building, uniting them at a performance space for the students. Keeping the edge secure with a fencing, the play area extends onto the entire space.


site plan






plan at +1.5 m

plan at +2.1 m

reflected ceiling plan


section AA’

section BB’


challenges a. detail of stone slates on roof Concrete band Stone slate (pathar) Mud mortar


Mud mortar Wooden pieces (dadar)

Wooden rafter

Wooden beam

Wooden band Wooden band Stone masonry

Modifying the local detail of stone slate and mud, to add layers of water proofing in the roof


b. detail of earthquake band

Wooden beam Wooden tie member

Stone masonry

Wooden column with concrete base

Wooden tie member Door frame Wooden column

Introducing two wooden bands to create a wooden system for an earthquake resistant building


c. detail of water filtration tank


MS gutter

Pipe connected to gutter Water tank to collect rain water Sedimentation tank

Introducing an on-site infiltration tank to use the rain water, in this water scarce zone


the school




- line out & excavation - foundation - raising the plinth - land filling


- till 1st wooden tie - till 2nd wooden tie - till the roof - 1st circular opening - 2nd circular opening

WOODEN TIES/LINTELS - preparing 1st set of ties - installing 1st set of ties - preparing 2nd set of ties - installing 2nd set of ties - preparing lintels - installing lintels


- erection of 4 interior columns - erection of exterior column


- laying primary beams - laying purlins - laying daddar - laying mud - laying plastic sheet - laying daddar + mud - laying slates


- window frames - window shutters - door frame - door shutters - west elevation frame - west elevation shutters - glass installation


- interior mud plaster - laying slate on back wall - laying slate on lintel - painting the doors & windows


- installing gutter & pipeline - installing water filter

SURROUNDINGS - stone paving - stage - railing





















a. tools पाटीसी











अदा aada






जीरी jeeri



सोला sola



आरी aari


b. preparation stones

1. hand-picking of stones from sites around

2. dressing of stones into masonry blocks and thin slates


1. sieving of sand from a nearby site for finer grains

2. mixing fine sand with water to prepare the mortar


wooden beams & columns

1. peeling the layer of bark from wooden logs

2. shaving logs for a smoother surface

3. making lengthening joints for wooden beams

4. applying varnish to ensure weather resistance

door & windows

1. cutting and shaving members for wooden frames


2. timber joints for fixing door and window frames

intermediate wooden band

1. cutting wooden members according to their sizes

2. making lengthening joints

3. rubber synthetic coat to ensure weather resistance

wooden roof filling

1. cutting & splitting wooden pieces from logs

2. cutting wooden logs into smaller halves


c. building elements foundation

foundation of the building is 1 foot deep made out of dry random rubble stone masonry

types of masonry

a circular opening was constructed with long thin slates dressed on site. the stones are arranged and supported on a tyre used as a forma, which was then removed after 2-3 days of drying 34

the wall is constructed with alternate courses of bigger stones and thin slate stones dressed on site. masonry was done with mud mortar

stone slate pieces and boulders are dressed on site and arranged in a way to construct a boundary wall 35

niches left within the building for sitting and storage purposes

wooden structural system

wooden columns, beams and rafters made from wooden logs procured from surrounding forests, were used as the structural system like most vernacular structures 36

doors, windows and niches

niches outside the building for placing lamps during festivals, inspired from their vernacular elements

blue windows and doors also inspired from Ghuggukhams houses 37

intermediate wooden bands

the first layer of wooden band was introduced all around the building after four masonry courses, in order to make the building earthquake resistant by providing enough bracing

the second layer of wooden band for earthquake resistance was introduced all around the building at the lintel level, tying itself to the wooden structure 38

roof system

the roof is covered with wooden pieces in-between rafters to fill in gaps and then laid over with a layer of mud mortar

the roof is completed with a final layer of stone slate which is locally available 39

d. assembly of surroundings paving

a stone paving laid in between the old and new building, connecting them to the stage which can also be used for sitting around a performance


a raised stage is constructed for performances by the school children. It is enclosed with a back drop made from waste glass bottles also acting as a railing. 40

a wooden railing is tied along the edge of the valley as a boundary and railing

painted planters made along with the school children hang on the wooden railing 41










The handmade series follows a model of intervening within a context, aided by the local body operating in a village or rural context. Our intervention at Ghuggukham was the second time we tested such a model. It gives us certain liberties of exploration and more importantly pulls in a larger network of people to engage in the process. By directly intervening, we get an opportunity to closely observe and understand the rural context, slowly building up trust and healthy relations with the locals. This reciprocates with a larger acceptance of building practices and programmes introduced within the area. Ghuggukham and villages around it reassured our observations on the visible shift in rural areas from local construction techniques to a blind acceptance of newer materials like concrete and steel. With changing times and rapidly developing techniques, the local ways of building lose their relevance in the eyes of its people. Since the construction of most houses is carried out by the stakeholders themselves in such areas, there is first a need to introduce them to techniques closer to their local construction which can solve their upcoming problems. Resorting to concrete and tin in an urgency to solve everyday problems like leekages etc, may gradually transform such villages into nothing more than an urban slum! As horrifying as it may seem to architects or professionals of our fraternity, we believe any kind of a change in such sensitive areas require a carefully researched systemic solution. The back and forth process of researching, proposing, reflecting, building and then revisiting the place after use, is what we believe will condition us to arriving at relevant solutions. Moreover, this model of direct intervention with closer contact to locals will help seep-in understandings of appropriate building practices, relevant to their context and time. While student participants engage in the experience of building with hands, the process acquaints them to the needs, availabilities and limitations in rural areas. Coming together of many stakeholders, locals, student participants from different backgrounds, and professional architectural knowledge results into the building as a by-product or prototype. A building practice which locals can further adopt from, to build individual houses in the future. This seemingly win-win situation, can only lead us to systemic solutions over a series of projects and explorations, to be reflected upon. Hence, our enquiry does not limit itself to a single material or place but a range of materials and places over time, searching for larger thought patterns which can be applied in such ‘eco-systems’ and not just ‘sites’.



Glossary of colloquial words fita / फीता measuring tape

daddar / दादर small wooden logs

fanti / फनती plastering board

panni / पन्नी tarpoline or plastic sheet

talsi / तसली vessel for collecting mortar and other materials

chinai / चिन्नई masonry

kanni / कन्नी instrument for applying and smoothing plaster

basula / बसूला axe, for cutting and shaving wooden bark

sola / सोला plumb line, instrument for maintaining level

aada / अदा chisel for daddar

aepad / आईपैड rangoli or paintings on grounds or walls

jiri / जीरी instrument for making grooves

pateesi / पाटीसी chisel, an instrument used for woodwork

ghan / घन big hammer

paathar / पाथर slate stone used for roofing





Compartment S4 is an architectural firm of eight graduates from CEPT university, initiated in May 2017. We intend to provide well-designed built environments to not just the urban fabric but also the much neglected rural communities. Hand-made is a workshop series under the architectural firm Compartment S4 focused on the grassroots level design involvements.

content Building process 1) The building 2) Final product Surroundings 1) Pavement 2) Stage and the compound wall 3) Final product The Exhibition The users

the site

on-site design discussions with the teachers and facilitators 4

removing the existing compound wall

starting the line-out of the proposed design 5

excavation for foundation starts

excavation for foundation starts

mistris doing a puja on site before starting the work.it is a local ritual followed in this area 6

dry stone masonry done for the foundation

plinth is raised by 1ft 7

participants coming up with design ideas for the surrounding spaces of the school and railings

passing the stones unloaded by the truck till the site of construction 8

school children passing the stones

school children passing the stones

school children passing the stones 9

participants learning to dress the stone blocks for to be used for wall masonry

dressing the stone to make an elevation face 10

seiving the mud to make mud mortar

use of a hand cart to transport stones from the nearby surroundings

picking of stones from nearby sites and transporting in pick-up truck 11

laying the first course of masonry with an alternate layer of stone block and slate. the entry steps placed as well

choosing th right stone from the pile to fit in the on-going stone masonry 12

stone masonry for the walls in progress

stone masonry for the walls in progress 13

placing the first layer of the wooden members

cutting a lengthning joint on the wooden member 14

placing the 2nd layer of the wooden members

wooden members being fixed and smaller stones being filled in the gaps

first band of wooden bracing is done 15


round wooden log being cut to size

children putting wooden pegs below the wooden log to stop the rolling as it is shaved

wooden log being shaved

wooden log carried to the point of erection

erecting the wooden colums

wooden members added as a brace to erect the columns 17

fixing the wooden column by filling mud in the gaps

stone masonry in progress 18

wooden members added as a brace to erect the columns

fixing the door frame

window frames fixed as the masonry continues 19

tyre used as a forma to make a circular opening

circular opening made out of thin long slates 20

making the sedimentation tank and a chokdi

niche at the entry made of out stone slates

the windows

view through the door 21

wooden beam placed on the wall

wooden column being shaved such that the wooden beam perfectly sits on top 22

wooden beams being fixed on the wooden columns

smaller wooden logs being placed on the primary wooden beams 23

smaller wooden logs being placed on the primary wooden beams

work continues late in the night 24

wooden logs being split into thinner sizes

wooden log splits being placed on the purlins

the structure completed 25

mud mortar being passed onto the roof

first layer of mud mortar laid on the roof 26

slate stones being placed on top of the roof using mud mortar

slates placed on the roof 27

window and door frames fixed

doors installed 28

stone and mud filling to level the floor and apply mud plaster on top

barb wire used as a reinforcement to make a cement parapet on top of the roof

fixing the glass in the windows 29

local village women applying mud plaster on the walls

applying cement plaster on the chokdi, sedimentation tank and the plinth made to keep the water tank 30

children filling up the sedimentary layers in the tank

slate stones laid on top of the exposed walls to avoid water seepage in the walls

slate stones fixed on top of the window lintels to protect wooden lintels from direct rainfall

slate stone flooring done on the plinth 31


finished corner showing the window

finished corner showing a niched storage

inside view with door open

inside view with door closed

final product

final product 33

laying the stone pavement

laying the stone pavement 34

planting the grass in the stone paving

stone paving in progress 35

raising the stage to 10 inches

making a waste glass bottle backdrop for the stage which also acts as a parapet wall 36

tying wooden logs and smaller logs on the existing steel sections to make the compound wall

mud being filled and rammed in the stage 37

applying cement plaster on the glass bottle wall and the stage

children making separate compost pits for plastic and food wastes 38

children cutting dry grass into smaller bits to be used for mud plastering

children helping in applying the mud plaster on the stage 39

different types of weaves on the tyres

tyre seat 40

painting the stage

children tying their individual planters on the compound wall

local women painting the waste oil cans which are to be used as planters 41

stage, glass bottle parapet, compound wall and the planters

local women painting aepad on the stage which is a symbol of entrance and warm welcome 42

glass bottle parapet with a planter

compound wall

part of the compound wall 43

final product

final product 44

final product

final product 45

culmination of the workshop with an exihibtion displaying the documentation drawings, village info drawings, photographs of the work and villagers

use of the stage to congratulate the children 46

the full team

team of workers 47

users of the space

users sitting by the louver windows 48

use of parapet by the window

through the door

entry through the door

kids having a light moment while helping in the on-site works 49

kids by the compound wall

kids by the compound wall 50

through the circular opening

tyre tube seats used for informal discussions

the users

children having lunch on the tyre seats 51

use of the chokdi, the 1000L water tank storing rain water and the sedimentation tank

teachers and children using the stage 52

the users

teachers taking a class 53

hand-made at Ghuggu Kham, Nainital, Uttrakhand June 2018

handmade@compartments4.com www.compartments4.com

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