Anda Project is an initiative that aims at repairing the relationship that communities establish with common spaces by creating situations where artists, architects, students and neighbors design and build cement tiles with the purpose of placing them within their local communities.
We started in 2011 meeting and interviewing cement tile master craftsmen and running research on traditional manufacturing processes in Spain, India, Portugal and Italy. We adapted these semi-industrial methods and materials into a more contemporary approach. Tools and materials we use can be easily find in any hardware store or builder´s yard. We replace professional elements by building them ourselves out of plastic, glass and wood.
Since 2012 we have worked together with organizations and institutions empowering communities to learn to value the places where they live in and where they move around.
“Art is a state of encounter”.
Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Paris, 1998
Strengthening, reconstructing, redesigning the relationship we build with those places of common access. Getting together to figure out ideas, and to design and materialize them. Taking advantage of the relaxed process typical of handcraft. Restoring sidewalks in neighborhoods, school yards, community centers. With these actions, people can create a place, a time and a common space that belongs to and is for everybody.
Anda Project looks for intervening in the sphere of human relations and their social context. It embodies in the shape of a workshop in order to set up healing actions focusing on building bonds between participants. Because when it comes to the design of the world around us, there is a need for taking sides, for making a statement, for having a discerning eye, for influencing the territory we live in. The workshop works as a device, a machine for social invention.
We devised a book to work as a timeless capsule, a vehicle to share experience, to make the initiative easy to replicate. We got inspiration from building construction handbooks of the times when it was easy to disassemble, explore and build the stuff that surrounds us. This book has the purpose of spreading the philosophy that drove us since the very beginning. It describes in detail the knowledge and expertise we acquired while researching and developing the project.
Each action, each tile is an interlocking piece that makes sense in the whole composition, they are situations where each one’s own interest cooperates with the ones of the rest, unveiling the deeper meaning of living, working and building a language together.
ABOUT CEMENT TILES
Cement tiles, also known as hydraulic tiles, are decorative pieces of tinted Portland cement that can be used either indoors or outdoors. The technique was invented in the South of France by the mid-1800s, and flourished in Belgium, Spain, Italy and Portugal.
Their method of production involves a mixture between handcraft and industrial technologies, featuring the use of metallic design molds to apply colors which are then fixed to the cement base by means of a hydraulic press.
Early references to cement tiles date back to 1857, though their popularization as an alternative to natural stone—mainly marble—occurred in the International Exposition of 1867 in Paris, where they were presented as a type of tile that didn´t need firing as the layers were fused together by pressure. Most common sizes included 20 x 20 cm and 15 x 15 cm. As this technique developed contemporary to Art Nouveau style, the latter inspired tile design and patterns would display geometric, flowers and plant motifs.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, tile workshops mushroomed in the big cities of the Americas. As it was a fashionable colorful low-cost flooring, it became the most popular floor covering in new housing projects. It was extensively employed until alternative industrialized lower-cost materials replaced cement tiles by the 1960s.
Although their use have decreased over the years, there are still some family businesses that keep on with the tradition. The crafting process is still virtually the same since it was invented. Raw materials make tiles a hard and heavy-duty product, for both indoors and outdoors use.
Cement tiles are made one at a time. Once the craftsman picks the colors, he mixes water, white cement and mineral pigments into a paste. This slurry is poured into a metallic pattern grid that is placed inside a frame. Each section of the grid is filled with the appropriate color. The more the number of hues in the design, the more the time needed to complete the tile. This first layer that will turn into the surface of the tile is about 3 mm thick. As soon as the mold is filled with the different colors, the grid is removed from the frame and a second layer of Portland cement and sand of the same thickness is added to the first one, so as to absorb the excess of water.
Finally, the frame is filled up to 20 -25 mm—the thickness of a brick—to form the base layer, made out of Portland cement and sand. The frame containing the different layers is placed under a hydraulic press to undergo then a pressure over a tone. Afterwards the frame is removed and the tiles are left to set and later are soaked in water for 24 hours. So as to let the cement harden properly, tiles are sprayed with water and left in a room for 20 days—the time cement needs to complete the chemical solidification process that was initiated by its first contact with water. That explains why tiles are called hydraulic, which is not then because of the use hydraulic presses as at the beginning presses were manually operated.