Week #08

Workers returned with a vengeance. All of the foundation holes are completed: 44 holes, each between 3-5 meters deep. Steel and concrete to fill the remaining holes are almost done. Forms are being built for the retaining and boundary walls, as well as the columns that arise out of the foundation holes.


The exciting parts are about to begin: an open basement with columns that rise to the residential level. A slab that runs across the entire building, from the guest space to our future living space.

A slab for the basement too, for a maid’s area and for the cars and scooters.

Week #03 – Boundary walls rising high, workers settled in

This week the property began to have vertical dimensions, as some of the walls were constructed to their full height.

It might be hard to visualize in the following video, but the entire property will require at least four feet of fill (perhaps a combination of dirt and limestone). So while the walls currently look ridiculously high, they will seem normal once the fill is in place.

I could have made the walls about 1.5 feet shorter but I want to avoid as much road noise as possible from entering the property, and concrete block walls do a pretty good job at reflecting unwanted sounds.

It’s been interesting to work with the on-site crew. I mostly do hand-waiving in the form of thumbs-up etc due to the language barrier, but Shelly & I did provide them with some home cooked food, an extension cord and a mosquito repellent device. So far everyone seems happy:

Week #02 – Some boundary wall foundations nearly completed

Even with some rain this week the crew accomplished a significant amount of work building foundations for the boundary walls. There’s a total of twelve workers that work seven days a week. I wish I could speak to them more directly, even for something trivial like discussing the weather, but alas there’s a major language barrier between us.

However, it’s so enjoyable to go visit the property each day and see more progress.

We’re getting closer and closer to starting on the building’s foundation. Yeah baby!

Here’s mud in your eye (and everywhere else)

The crew has been busy digging, hauling rocks and building the boundary walls. The weather has been quite nice, that is until yesterday, when the sky opened up and buckets of rain fell.

Of course the concrete will harden regardless of the rain. It’s more that the workers will have to work in fields of mud:

I hope that when you view a photo like the one above you will come to appreciate all of the crazy amount of physical labor that’s involved in building a vacation retreat, or any structure.

And that the beginning of the project is unforgiving when it comes to the creation of mud. Even the thickest of grasses would give way to the constant foot traffic, wheel barrels of heavy rock, etc.

I’ve never been to a work site that didn’t have tons of mud at the earliest stages. Of course I haven’t built in the desert, and so I’m sure there are exceptions.

As you visit a hotel or a retreat and you are flush with clean towels and a sparklingly clean room, surrounded by a manicured landscape and a crystal-clear swimming pool, keep in mind:

the laborers had to slog through the mud for days on end… just for you.

A tag team for building and site design

Yesterday was a bit of a marathon meeting, as our architectural team called in their government permit expert and, in the end, it was decided that it’s best to re-design for two levels (instead of the current three levels) and try to somehow squeeze in the rooftop bar.

We threw some re-design ideas around for a bit and then it was decided that within a week the architectural team will create something that the government can gaze at and comment on.

It’s one thing to say a room is a library and then later, after the government inspector is gone, turn it into a bedroom — and quite another to say a roof that begins 2.5 meters above the top floor is that way in order to make the structure look cool — when in reality it’s that way to support people wandering around an open-air rooftop bar.

And so we have to make lemonade from lemons that the government deems worthy to squeeze.

While a small part of me temporarily wanted to throw in the towel, I’m eager to see what kind of rabbit Arkana Architects will pull out of it’s hat.

After the permit meeting we called in our road and wall building team to meet with Arkana.

Due to the sloping building site and the fact that part of the structure will have a parking space under it, we need to carefully determine the heights of each portion of the property for proper drainage.

It was decided to have a tiered setup: building structure, pool, and then a final tier for the cafe. The other option is a gradual slope, but by tiering the property we can do something creative with the pool placement. Essentially the downhill part of the pool wall will be more exposed in order to avoid bringing in more fill.

Calculations were made and then everyone was happy with the result.

It is remarkable that architects essentially problem-solve all day long. The beautiful touches that an architect adds to a building is probably 10% of their job. The bulk of their work consists of the nuts and bolts of, for example, making sure a water pipe doesn’t end up in the wrong place.

It’s always exciting to grind away at an idea until it comes to life. The bureaucratic hurdles can appear to be stifling, but you have to use the government’s constraints and still try your best to stay true to your vision.

None of it is easy.