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End of April '02

The inner skin: a sweeping soft orangish-pink glow for the structure’s interior

Preparation for the twelve meditation rooms

The workshop at Matrimandir is filled with the sounds of the grinding, welding and cutting of metal plates. The air is full of activity – what is happening? The team involved with fixation of the golden discs is busy preparing stainless steel disc supports at one end of the workshop. Clamps for the semicircular benches in the 12 meditation rooms are being given final touches by a second team. A third group is welding and polishing the stainless steel pipes that will carry water up to the top of Matrimandir for cleaning the discs. And another group has set up, on level ground outside the workshop, a to-scale set of metal ribs forming the skeleton of an egg-shaped dome, some 7 meters in diameter, that will be used to guide the team of masons in the final inside plastering of the meditation rooms inside the petals. This photo shows the dome being built.  

A set of metal ribs forming the skeleton of an egg-shaped dome..

Inner skin defined..

And then there is one new project underway: the fabrication of a special table for the application of colour to the round windows (a.k.a. portholes) which are fitted into the middle of each of the ferro-cement panels which make up the outer skin of Matrimandir. Why are we going to colour these round windows? Let us take you back a few steps in our process.

The biggest project remaining to complete the interior of Matrimandir is the huge work of making the “inner skin” – that translucent layer that will cover the 3000 sq m of the inner face of the spherical space-frame of Matrimandir. Over the last few years you will have read in these news bulletins of our extended trials and experiments to achieve the glowing salmon-pink colour - similar to that of the hibiscus Mother named ‘Auroville’ - that She indicated to be the colour inside the Matrimandir.

You may have seen in our bulletins photographs of our attempts to make the large triangles of the inner skin in coloured glass. (Each triangle is 3 m. wide and 2.5 m. high!) For fusing the colour onto those triangles, a huge gas-fired oven, capable of heating the glass sheets evenly to a temperature of 800° C over a period of several hours, was built. That last series of experiments allowed us to develop the glass fusing technique to a high degree of accuracy, but it also showed that it is extremely difficult to get an evenly coloured panel using this process and, secondly, that using Indian float glass, which has a greenish tinge, gives any coloured panel a dull look. All these experiments have led us to carry out a new series of trials over the last few months, and to arrive at a conclusion that now seems sure to bring a top class result.

The proposal to use large glass triangles for the inner skin will be retained, but instead of using local glass we will use European white glass. This glass will be sand-blasted to give it a frosted effect and it will act as a translucent white screen which will derive its salmon-pink colour from the sunlight projected onto it through the round windows of the outer skin of Matrimandir.


Orangish/pink/salmon colour..

It is to colour these round windows that we are building a new table in the workshop. The coloured paste is applied to the glass using a rubber squeegee which is drawn very steadily and evenly over the silk-screen frame above the glass. It is all but impossible to do this evenly every time by hand. Hence the table has been designed to hold the squeegee firmly and then to run it smoothly, on rails, over the glass, avoiding any bumps or jerks. The glass is then put into the large gas oven and the colour becomes fused to the glass. During the month of March a very interesting and colourful experiment was carried out inside the Matrimandir to assess this new proposal.

All 800 round windows of the outer skin were covered with a plastic that had been painted to yield the orangish-pink colour. Suddenly the atmosphere inside the building was transformed! Bright pools of sunlight coming through the windows of the lower hemisphere became subdued fields of colour. The concrete structure itself seen from the first and second levels took on a pinkish hue.

The entire inner surface of one of the four quarters of the sphere was covered with a layer of translucent tracing paper, to simulate the effect of frosted white glass over an area of several hundred square meters (see photo below). For the first time, one could get a realistic impression of how the coloured skin will be – for the light from the round windows was thrown onto the tracing paper, giving a sweeping orangish glow to the entire surface.

It was necessary to make this large-scale experiment as a tool and testing field to make final adjustments in the colouring of the round windows, and to be sure that the overall effect of the colour was pleasing and neither too bright or nor too dim.

The experiment was viewed by one and all. Tests were also made on artificially lighting of the inner skin for the evening and night hours when there is no external light from the sun. 

Now the way forward seems clear – in the workshops preparations have begun to set up the stages of the manufacturing process that will engage a large part of our attention and energy over the next three years.

To reach this point we have had to go through many experiments, as was indeed the case for the golden discs of the outer skin of Matrimandir as well as for many other elements, which form part of the structure today. And more tests will surely be called for as we go along.

Contact: matrimandirauroville.org.in

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