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PERSONAL INFORMATION NAME : LAURANCE WILFRED BAKER Nationality : British-origin, Indian Birth date : MARCH 2, 1917 Birth place : Birmingham, England Date of death : April 1, 2007, aged 90 Place of death : Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Laurence Wilfred "Laurie" Baker was an award-winning English architect, renowned for his initiatives in low-cost housing. He CAME to India in 1945 in part as a missionary and since then lived and worked in India for over 50 years. He obtained Indian citizenship in 1989 and resided in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala. In 1990, the Government of India awarded him with THE PADMA SHRI, the nation's fourth highest civilian award, in recognition of his meritorious service in the field of architecture.
Baker's innovative use of discarded bottless, creates a stained glass effect.
Education and missionary work
Baker studied architecture in Birmingham and graduated in 1937, aged 20. His initial commitment to India had him working as an architect for an international and interdenominational Mission dedicated to the care of those suffering from leprosy. Finding his English construction education to be inadequate for the types of issues and materials he was faced with: termites and the yearly monsoon, as well as laterite, cow dung, and mud walls, respectively, Baker had no choice but to observe and learn from the methods and practices of the vernacular architecture. Inspired by his discoveries he began to turn his style of architecture towards one that respected the actual culture and needs of those who would actually use his buildings, rather than just playing to the more "Modern-istic" tunes of his paying clients.
Throughout his practice, Baker became well known for designing and building low cost, high quality homes, with a great portion of his work suited to or built for lower-middle to lower class clients. His buildings tend to emphasize prolific - at times virtuosic - masonry construction, instilling privacy and evoking history with brick jali walls, a perforated brick screen which utilises natural air movement to cool the home's interior and create intricate patterns of light and shadow.
JALI WALL at Central for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.
Another significant Baker feature is irregular, pyramid-like structures on roofs, with one side left open and tilting into the wind. Curved walls enter Baker's architectural vocabulary as a means to enclose more volume at The living room of Dr. Dolas' residence, Bakerlower material cost than straight walls. Baker's architectural playfully uses curved forms. method is one of improvisation, in which initial drawings have only an idealistic link to the final construction, with most of the accommodations and design choices being made on-site by the architect himself.
'The Hamlet', Laurie Baker's home, built on a steeply sloping and rocky hillside.
In one of the exhibition rooms, there is a chart written in his own hand listing the many things of wisdom he discovered through his extremely productive working life as an architect and a humanist: • Only accept a reasonable brief • Discourage extravagance and snobbery • Always study your site and see potential relating to the soil, drainage, power, fuel etc. • You yourself get accurate site details and in-situ facts • Every building should be unique; no two families are alike, so why should their habitation be alike? • Study and know local materials, cost, building techniques and construction • Study the energy used in the production of materials and transport • Don’t rob national resources; don’t use them extravagantly or unnecessarily • Be honest in design, materials, construction, costs and your own mistakes
•Avoid opulance and showing-off by using currently fashionable gimmicks • Get your conscience out of deep-freeze, and use it • Look closely at your prejudices and question them • Have faith in your convictions and have the courage to stick to them
The living room at 'The Hamlet'. An integration of new building and salvaged timber from traditional buildings that were being demolished.
The India coffee house in Thiruvananthapuram.
•In 1987 ,the first Indian National Habitat Award. •In 1989, Indian Institute of Architects Medal for Outstanding Architect of the year. •In 1990, Grand Masters Award Architect of the year. •In 1991, Indian Institute of Architects Medal - Outstanding Architect. •In 1992, UNO Habitat Award and Roll of Honour. •In 1993, International Union of Architects - World Habitat Award. •In 1995, University of Central England. Doctor of the University.
Stainwell in Nalini Nayak's residence in Thiruvananthapuram, Perforated brick walls create dappled patterns of light.
Centre for Development Studies Ulloor, Trivandrum, 1971 the most important project of baker’s career. The significance of this assignment had less to do with size and budget, than with the idea of exhibiting a range of concepts applied to buildings of varying functions, scale and dimensions. An area of nine acres accommodates administrative offices, a computer centre, an amphi-theatre, a library, classrooms, housing and other components of an institutional design.
The Computer centre, Centre for Development Studies, Here Baker evolved an innovative system of curved double walls to save on cost and to conserve the energy that goes into airconditioning a building of this scale and purpose.
Here, at the summit, the library dominates the centre with a seven-storey tower; the administrative offices and classrooms are scattered in a randomness determined by each one's position on the slope. However, the buildings remain tightly connected through corridors that snake upwards to the library along breezy walkways and landscaped courts.
Building textures, configurations and spanning elements demonstrate Baker’s easy manipulation of brick, all of which were made close to the site and fired with locally-available coconut palm wood. All surfaces, whether inside or out, in the dormitory or classroom, are exposed to patterns showing varying honding techniques and jali work. Openings are arched, corbelled or spanned with brick lintels. Wall thicknesses change on different floors, depending on the loading and requirement.
Loyola Chapel and Auditorium
Sreekarayam, 1971 The Loyola complex contains a high school and a post-graduate complex, both sharing a common chapel and an auditorium. It was here that Baker's skills of cost-reduction met their greatest challenge, as it required a seating capacity of one thousand. In order to increase the lateral strength of the high brick wall, without the introduction of any steel or concrete, Baker devised a wide cavity doublewall with cross-bracing brick.
Windowless cavity wall
Both the walls were pierced with a continuous floor-to-roof pattern of jails, so that the chapel was adequately, though somewhat mysteriously, lit-and ventilated. Despite its tall proportions, the acoustics of the hall were remarkable-the exposed surfaces and the open patterns of brickwork controlling the reverberations.
The total covered area of the chapel and auditorium and the gallery is approximately 930 square meters. The cost in 197071, including the furniture and appurtenances, lighting and sanitation was kept within the original gift sum of 1.75 lakh rupees.
Plan of Loyola Chapel
1. Chapel nave 2. Sanctuary 3. Narthex 4. Sacristy 5. Chapel 6. Terrace 7. Auditorium 8. Stage 9. Green room 10. Toilet
Loyola Chapel and Auditorium: Estimate of Cost
Rate Excavation and refilling Concrete foundations 1:4:8 DPC:CM 1:3 crude oil 5% wt c. RR masonry in 1:5 cm first class bricks in 1:5 cm 4.5" brick in 1:4 cm ditto query extra flooring 4"1:4:8 plus c.finish slab floor c. finish 0.5" cm plaster 3 coat whitewashing I Supercem 3 coats (2 and primer) RCframe RCslabs Doors Windows Chapel ceiling Auditorium ceiling Roof weathering 3" jelly tiles etc. AC roofing Steel trusses Sanitation and drains Electrical installation 3% contingencies Furniture for chapel Total sq.ft. 1.50 sq.ft. 1.50 cu.wt. 115. cu.ft. cu.ft. sq.ft. cu.ft. cu.ft. sq.ft. sq.ft. sq.ft. sq.ft. sq.ft. sq.ft. cu.ft. cu.ft. 0.06 1.20 0.30 0.95 1.80 0.75 0.75 0.65 0.22 0.03 0.30 11.00 8.00 Quantity 16,000 1,900 560 3,360 16,100 1,250 1,600 6,840 11,860 11,860 11,860 2,560 Figure 960 2,280 168 3,192 28,980 938 1,200 4,480 2,609 355 3,560 8,500 20,480 Say 1,000 2,500 200 3,300 29,000 1,000 1,500 4,500 500 3,000 500 4,000 8,500 20,500 5,000 500 10,000 7,500 1,150 6,050 1,725 9,075 2,000 9,000 25,000 2,500 10,000 4,500 18,000 Rs 1,70,000
House for Dr A. Vaidyanathan
Kumarapuram, Trivandrum, 1972 It is the one of the Baker's more successful circular houses. In the Vaidyanathan house, the rooms are arranged in a wide arc facing the sea. The plan orients outwards in a double semicircle which incorporates all the major spaces of the house on the upper floor: living, dining and bedroom, with the semicircle ending in a study at one end and a car port in the other. A staircase at the entrance travels down to the lower floor that is built against the retaining wall of the hill and houses two additional bedrooms and a study. However, the brick walls of these rooms are separated from the inner stone retaining wall by a small air space, setting up an effective termite and moisture barrier.
A significant architectural feature of the Vaidyanathan House is an open-to-sky circular court, completing the inner wall of the house in a pattern of staggered brick and becoming the home of an ancient mango tree. Surprisingly, the entrance door is located on the side at the meeting point of the house and court wall-and not on an axial approach as may be expected.
•LAURIE BAKER Life, Work & Writings By G.Bhatia
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