Newsletter December 2006
Once again the northeast monsoon rains are sweeping over the construction site of Matrimandir. Everyone who is working outside, whether the masons giving the finishing touches to the garden pathways, or the workers lowering the last of the scaffolding pipes from around the Matrimandir, is forced to head for shelter and wait out the latest cloudburst.
Fortunately, two of the major works in hand are indoors and are thus protected from the vagaries of the monsoon. These are the production and installation of the inner skin, and the preparation of the two spiral ramps leading up to the Chamber inside Matrimandir.
Progress on the Inner Skin and Ramps
In the inner skin workshop, teams are working overtime to assemble the triangular powder-coated frames that will hold the glass fiber fabric of the skin. Their target is to make five frames ready each day. A second team then has the job of carrying the frames over to the structure and installing them in position inside the sphere. This team has a target of six frames per day. With several people working overtime every day , it looks like we will reach our target of installing the entire inner skin by early February 2007.
At another workshop in Auroville, the 1,320 lighting modules for the inner skin, each designed around a set of 4 light-emitting diodes (LED's), are being steadily assembled. These modules are being brought to Matrimandir for final testing before being installed inside the structure behind the inner skin panels. At night these modules will give the 3,000 sq. mt. of the inner skin a soft golden-pink glow.
As for the ramp, things are moving well too. In mid-November, we received a shipment of honeycomb aluminum panels from the United States , a very light and strong material which will be used for the flooring of the ramp. These panels seemed to be the best option given the weight restriction on the ramp: the sum total of all its components - the flooring, the support for the floor, the glass parapets and the handrail - must not exceed the weight limit set by the original design when the ramp was conceived, way back in 1971.
As we reported in our recent newsletter, a supplier for the glass parapets has been found nearby in Chennai. The first samples of glass from this supplier will be in place by the time you receive this letter. After that, we are assured that the factory will be able to produce the panels we need in a matter of a few weeks.
With the installation of the ramp flooring in progress, we looked far and wide to find the most suitable carpet to cover these aluminum panels. Samples in all colors and types came in from various corners of India , as we searched for something durable, easy to clean and beautiful. Happily, thanks to a generous donation, a pure wool carpet of the same quality and color of that of the Inner Chamber will be specially woven for the ramps in time for Mother's birthday.
Thus, as we near the close of this year, we are well on course with these two main projects.
New Crane for the Top of Matrimandir
Early in November we received a long awaited shipment from Germany , the new stainless steel crane that will be mounted on top of the sphere. You may wonder why, at the conclusion of this lengthy construction project, we should now want to fix a new crane on Matrimandir! The answer is that this crane is intended for future maintenance, for cleaning the discs, for eventually removing them if that should ever be required, and to help us carry out whatever service tasks are needed on the outer surface of the 29m. high building.
The main design task, when considering how to build and operate this new crane, was to find the best way to conceal it to the maximum, so that it will not be visible from ground level, at least not within the gardens area.
The solution we came upon was to make the crane “collapsible”. Thus it has been made to `sit' when not in use, low down on the top cap of Matrimandir . When it is required for some task or other, it will be raised up on a central stand using hydraulic lifts. Then too, the long boom that must stretch a full 20 meters to reach the outer edge of the globe has been made in five parts, so that it can be extended from a contracted length of only 10 meters to its full working length.
Perhaps most astonishing fact of all is that all the parts of the crane have been fabricated in stainless steel, making it perhaps the only one of its kind in the world.
Now our task is to get the various parts of this crane up onto the roof for assembly.
This is a huge challenge, as the heaviest of the pieces, the base plate, weighs two and a half tons! This weight is more than twice as much as we have ever lifted at Matrimandir, - and we have to lift these pieces 29 mt., right up to the very top!!
A high scaffolding is being built on the eastern side of Matrimandir to enable us to do this lifting job.
(photo: Unloading the crane parts on their arrival from Germany)
Matrimandir to close for the final interior finishing.
The last stage of the work inside the Matrimandir is going to involve a lot of shifting of scaffolding and general cleanup and finishing of the interior of the building.
For this reason the Inner Chamber is likely to be closed to all visitors from approximately mid-January, and to re-open on the 21 st of February 2007 . During this period, the meditation rooms inside the petals will remain open. Bookings can be made in advance by phoning 262-2268 between 9 am 10 am any day. The opening time will be 5 to 6 p.m. only.
A multitude of things to do!
Aside from these obvious tasks, we find as we approach the final stages of the work that there are more and more details that need our attention!
Surely it is this way with any construction. It is a job in itself just to keep track of all these details. This formidable list of “things still to do “includes such items as: installation of the movable doors at the main entrances; installation of the special shields above each doorway; completion of the painting of the interiors of the remaining petals; installing the air-conditioning in those petals; completion of the pathways and irrigation system in the gardens; and on and on…
We are hopeful that the major items of our “to do” list will be finished by February…….with the pace of the work here increasing day by day as the year draws to a close.
Address for donations and correspondence:
M A T R I M A N D I R - A U R O V I L L E 6 0 5 1 0 1 -
T A M I L N A D U - I N D I A
Tel. (91) (0413) 262-2268 ; 262-2228 (finance). FAX: (91) (0413) 262-2053;