[ENG] Construction 113: Side alley underground structures (1) - tests and studies

26/05/19 | ۩ |

I believe the time has come to put my hands on the underground structures that surround Domus, left out from the construction so far. Before starting the climb to the first floor, with all that comes with it (arches of the loggia, stairs, vaults, etc.), I'd like to see the streets that run on two sides of the building completed: on the front, an alley slightly sloping, paved and driveway, under which a small covered stream flows; sideways, a narrow and steep alley partially covered with steps that reaches the secondary entrance passing the external wall of the tower.

Although it has been a long time since I first thought about the construction of these streets and the filling of the subsoil, I find myself having to face a job that is still full of unknowns, mainly due to the lack of convincing tests. Let's jump back a couple of years and see what these tests are.

My intention was from the beginning to make a pretty rough filler using wooden boards that once removed will leave the materials of which the soil is composed: stones, sand, cement or other things. My big doubt was about the resistance of this filling, because if the material is too fragile it could break on the edges releasing continuously wastes that would make it difficult to clean and preserve. For this reason I carried out a first test using glue in the mixture.

The result did not convince me. The glue in such a large quantity took a long time to dry and did not completely lose its whitish color. The next day the only dry part was the surface exposed to air, while the rest of the block was soft and easily deformable. In addition, the glue tends to withdraw and this could alter the structure in an unpredictable way.

Using only cement instead of glue the result would certainly be more resistant, but I wanted to prevent the subsoil from taking the same gray color as the base to make it clear that it is the natural ground.
So I decided to combine the cement with a mix of gravel and soil that I picked up next to a dirt road, adding to the mixture a little glue diluted in water.

The test block was hard and resistant and took a discreet brownish color, even if on the surfaces there was no trace of the gravel as I would have liked ...

Let's go back to the present.
After these tests I decide to go on with soil and cement, and that is why I build the wooden formwork that will allow me to pour the mixture directly over the walls.
To give better grip to the cement I take advantage of some nooks and crannies between the stones to insert screws and wire. This armor will prevent the alley from collapsing from the rest of the construction.

The wooden mold shows some bolts that will serve to open holes in the concrete block (I will reveal its usefulness later - much later) and a metal tube through which one of the led bulbs will pass to illuminate the basement.
I pour the mixture into the formwork and wait with (im)patience for it to dry to see if the result convinces me to keep on this way or if I need to try another method.

Ok. I need to find another way.

I take a moment to pause and wait for the light to come on with a brilliant idea that will let me overcome this terrible disappointment. When I finally see that light, the desire to bring to reality what I have in mind is overwhelming. I realized what my mistake was: I wanted to fill up the subsoil on-the-fly to quickly proceed to the completion of the alleys, forgetting that this IS NOT the way in which the Domus must take shape: every corner has a reason to be; every surface, even the more insignificant, has potentialities that must be studied and brought to maturity. In this case, the subsoil can offer much more than just a brown wall and a few cracks, and it don't matter if the work will be longer than expected.

With a pencil I outline the basic characteristics of the subsoil. The side surfaces will be completely covered by slate tiles, except where different holes will get into the underground corridor and the river (for which I have already made the stone bed).
In addition there will be another circular opening from which it will be possible to observe part of an underground environment. Here I can play with fantasy: Ancient roman structures? A secret room? Stratification of materials and human remains?

What is hidden under the Domus?

(to be continued...)

vinyl glue, beach pebbles, cement, soil, gravel, wire, steel screw, aluminium pipe
pincers, tweezers, pan, palette knife, soil scoop, wooden planks
SIZE (in cm):
28 x 3,8


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