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Original name : Laurence Wilfred Baker Born on : 2nd March 1917 Burmingham, England. Resides in : Trivandrum, Kerala. Bakers architectural career began as a student at Birmingham University. However, his blossoming professional practice, only a year old, was cut short when World War II erupted in Europe. Baker enlisted in the Friends Ambulance Unit and served as a medical technician in China and Burma. He came to India in 1945 as an architect to the leprosy mission. He settled down in the Himalayas with his wife, a doctor from Kerala, where he discovered a hidden heritage in the local indigeneous style of architecture.

He observed how the local people used only the locally available building materials to make structurally stable buildings that could cope with the local climatic conditions and topography. Bakers decided to move South, to Kerala. In 1965, they moved to Trivandrum and got involved in the leprosy work and also built homes and institutions for a wider clientele.

Laurie Baker has been practicing architecture in Kerala for over 44 years. He has contributed towards designing and building schools, civic buildings, institutes, hospitals and leprosy centers, chapels and over 1000 private homes for the poor in India (mostly in southern district of Kerala), residences for individual clients and mass housing as a part of Government schemes. He has been associated with allied-government and quasi-government work including work with the Planning Commission, a member of HUDCO and the National Institute of Design, and the Scientific Advisory Council of C.B.R.I. In 1985, along with then Keralan Chief Minister C. Menon, he founded COSTFORD (Centre for Science and Technology for Rural Development).This non-profit organization draws on its voluntary staff of scientists, technicians, educators, social workers, and designers to develop civic and residential structures.To date, the group has constructed over 250 units of housing for the poor. Baker has inspired architects, engineers, students and masons by his work and ideologies. He has been involved in various training programmes for masons,engineers and architects, and has produced several do-it-yourself books regarding cost-effective construction.

Childrens village, near Nagercoil, tamilnadu, 1965. Loyola Graduate and Women's Hostel, Sreekaryam, Trivandrum, 1970. The Centre for Development Studies, Ulloor, Trivandrum,1971. The State Institute of Languages. Loyola Chapel and Auditorium, Sreekaryam, 1971. Namboodripads House, Ulloor, Trivandrum, 1973 . Fishermen's Village, Poonthura, Trivandrum, 1974-75. Chitralekha Studio Complex, Aakulam, Trivandrum, 1974-76. Tourist Centre, Ponmudi, Trivandrum, 1980. Nirmithi Kendra, Aakulam, Trivandrum, 1987 House for Abu Abraham (cartoonist & columnist), Kowdiar, Trivandrum,1989. Chapel for Sacred Heart Centre, Monroe Island, Quilon, Kerala. The Hamlet Bakers Own Home.


A site is ideal only in the undisturbed natural state and a building must renew and reinforce the original site conditions in order to be accomodated . The architecture should merge with the surrounding landscape, rather than standing out. It should not be in competition with the nature, but in harmony with it . The architecture at a place should be responsive to the climate, context and the available resources it should be for the people, their needs and hopes, irrespective of trend or style . The outer form alone is meaningless, it has to be complemented or overshadowed by the inner contents since, the spatial experience of an inhabitant is more important than pure visual forms .

EMPHASIZES ON REGIONAL STYLES Baker adapts regional styles so as to suit a particular region with its own people, religion, topography and climate etc. He uses traditional Indian techniques and technology to evolve indigenous architecture. CONSIDERATION OF CLIMATE the thermal design of buildings Well known for designing and building functional brick home considering the direction of the prevailing winds, the driving rain and the incident sun, while planning. Baker has improvised the traditional roof by the addition of a windscoop, an irregular, pyramid-like structures on roofs, with one side left open and tilting into the wind. Hot air rises inside the house and is drawn up to the roof line and is vented out of the triangular chimneys formed in the roof thereby utilizing natural air movement to cool the interiors. Baker often provides a water body, a reservoir adjacent to his buildings in the direction of prevailing breeze enabling natural cooling.

USE OF LOCAL MATERIALS Uses locally available natural resources at a particular location. Builds using traditional Indian materials Baker has promoted the use of tiles, bricks, lime, palm thatch, stone and local granite in place of modern materials. Concrete is used very sparingly, often in a folded-slab design. Optimum use of scarce materials. Use of materials in their natural colour, texture and patterns formed by joining them together discarding any form of costly finishes. He has a flare for the most sustainable and renewable resource, that is mud. ECONOMIC CONSTRUCTION Bakers concept of low cost housing and cost-effectiveconstruction proved to be a successful solution to the roofless millions.

PLAY OF LIGHT AND SHADOW Baker is fond of visually manipulating the interior spaces by repetitive variation of light and shadow, using brick jali work as a medium. He artfully provides spaces to maintain privacy as well as interaction. He is known to create spatial episodes by using simple and directly opposing sequences.

RECYCLING OLD/WASTE MATERIALS - the eco-friendly architect. Uses discarded pieces of tiles as fillers in the filler slab roof. Reuses everything from brick to glass bottles as building materials. The coloured glass sets in concrete displaying brilliant light. Baker's innovative use of discarded bottles, inset in the wall, creates a stained glass effect.


Housing forms the backbone of Bakers architecture in Kerala consisting of residences for individuals and as mass housing mainly for poor as part of government schemes. According to him, the home is a system, which must synchronise with the available materials, craftsmen and the economy. Houses of permanence and quality can be effectively built compatible with the income and requirements. A house has to completely cost effective in construction, structurally stable, completely functional and aesthetically appealing. A low cost house is nothing but a Cost Effective House where the cost of construction is reduced without compromising with the strength, structural stability and life of the house. Low cost technology in construction reduced the total cost of construction to nearly 25 to 30 percent compared to the conventional construction.


Laurie Baker does not use new construction technology to create new forms but for necessity, that is reduction in the cost of building. His construction technology brings out the regional identity of the place. Baker treats each and every member of his structure in such a way that the building is cost-effective and climatically responsive.


THE EXTERIORS ROOF The characteristic features of Bakers building include the sloping tiled roof and overhanging eaves.The roof pitch is steep and eaves come down low to protect the walls, adopted in response to the hot, wet and humid climate of kerala. The roof accounts for about a quarter of the total cost. Baker provided a cost-effective solution while maintaining the traditional character of the roof.

FILLER SLAB Baker adapts the traditional Kerala terracotta tiled roof into a concrete folded slab design, using broken or discarded tiles as fillers in the slab which contributes to the strength of the roof. 20-35% less materials - allows less of expensive concrete to be used Decorative, Economical & Reduced self-load. Almost maintenance free. 25-30% Cost reduction. WALLS Local forms of brick screen walls, that is, the traditional jali work is incorporated in full facade. The walls are curved or stepped in plan for added stiffness and rigidity. Other signature element of his design includes the use of circular walls using less bricks than rectangular ones.

Exposed brickwork of merely half-brick thickness are used in innovative bonding techniques. MASONRY WALL IN RAT-TRAP BOND. Baker re-introduced the rat-trap brick bond in construction for greater stability of the wall. It also offers a 25% saving of brick and mortar in its construction. Better thermal performance. Environment friendly, Maintenance free with concealed electrification. Lesser seepage possibilities. Reduced self load. 20-25% Cost reduction.

THE BRICK JALI Bakers play of light and shadow. Baker incorporates brick jali, a surface of small and regular openings in trellis, lattice, honey-combed and various other forms.

Use of jalis is climatically suited as it fragments the harsh sunlight filtering in a uniform glow and breeze.

DOORS AND WINDOWS Baker eliminates the use of glass windows, frames and sills. According to him, jali is the true vernacular solution to the window. It catches both light and air, diffusing glare while allowing for privacy and security. Thus combining the functions of a window as well as ventilator. The conventional door and window is used only if absolutely necessary. Instead, the shutters are fixed directly to the masonry wherever possible. Processed, treated and seasoned rubber wood is used for doors, windows, wardrobe shutters etc, to reduce cost.

ARCHES Baker maintains that the simplest and most economical spanning of an opening in a brick wall is to use the stepped or corbelled arch. Where large openings are required, the bricks on each course are corbelled-out a few inches beyond the course below until the span is bridged.

COMPOSITE LINTEL In case of rectangular opening, a form of reinforced brickwork can be used which capitalises on the composite action of the lintel with the masonry above. Balance of aesthetics, cost & materials. Decorative, economical than R.C.C lintel. 15% Cost reduction.

THE INTERIORS The interiors are direct and simple, devoid of superfluous comforts, expensive veneers or flashy details. Use of unfired brick and red-oxide flooring. Furniture is built into the home as much as possible using natural materials like stone, rubble and brick, thus cutting down on furniture costs. Ferro cement slabs are used to avoid costly carpentry work for wardrobes, shelves etc. Plastering is avoided by providing exposed brick or stone masonry with rich cement pointing.

Brick spiral staircase is typical in most of the buildings. THE STAIR-WELL

Perforated brick walls create dappled patterns of light.

Open yet welled Staircase.

Costly scaffolding and shuttering is avoided by providing brick shoring. Replacing 50% sand with quarry dust in all the masonry and concrete works reduced the consumption of sand. Pozzolana cement and slag cement is extensively used in construction, which reduced the cost of cement to nearly 40%.. FOUNDATIONS since the total load of the house is reduced by 40% totally by adopting various techniques, the foundation required for a cost effective house is very less compared to a conventional house. For normally hard soil, the excavation required for a cost effective house of ground and two floor is maximum 2 wide x 2 deep. Extending the random rubble foundation above ground to make a part of the wall, is stronger and cheaper. It permits the use of thinner walls to be flushed with the outside edge of the 18 wide foundation, thus not allowing the rain water to weaken the foundations by seeping in.

By virtue of all the above stated and using many other techniques the cost of construction of low cost house or a cost effective house gets reduced to nearby 30% compared to the conventionally construction.

Location : Trivandrum, Kerala Architect: Laurie Baker Year : 1971


A 10 acre campus of this masterpiece building, houses a research institute and a graduate school dedicated to utilizing the study of economics to help the poor. The building is so designed in conjunction with the existing natural features and flora-fauna that it seems to blend with the landscape. Its a red brick structure with complete walls in jali work. The walls are circular with only a few sharp corners. Buildings at the centre are designed to practically cool themselves, using a pond to draw air across its surface and cool the building, a contemporary re-interpretation of the traditional cooling system.

The Computer centre at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram. Here Baker evolved an innovative system of curved double walls to save on cost and to conserve the energy that goes into air-conditioning a building of this scale and purpose.

Location : Trivandrum. Architect: Laurie Baker


'The Hamlet', built on a steeply sloping and rocky hillside that hardly had any vegetation when Baker started constructing it , is now a visual delight.

The physical form of an architects house is an expression of his own character, his architectural principles and beliefs. The residence of Baker is a fusion of nature and home. The building is made entirely of mud brick.

The living room at 'The Hamlet'. An integration of new building and salvaged timber from traditional buildings that were being demolished .

Bakers home is planned to blend with the landscape.


Location : Trivandrum. Architect: Laurie Baker The Dolas home is a part of a loosely organised housing cluster, consisting of six houses. The entire ground level of the home seems to be made up of a single central volume - a bowl-shaped interior space. No solid walls divide up the space, instead the house has an open-plan configuration derived due to clients needs. The focus of this bowl is a spiral staircase suspended at the center.


The living room

Baker playfully uses curved forms. The in-built furniture. Frameless grillage work. Concrete filler slab.

Laurie Baker has a style of his own be it in the architecture of the buildings or his working methods. BAKERS COMPREHENSION OF SPACE His ability to envision space is so perfect that he does not need any building drawings to co-relate to his work on the site. Much of the design detailing is done on the spot at the site. His ability to improvise on the site. Curved jali walls are drawn by the hand, on the spot, at the site without any sort of equipment. Openings are designed as the wall is being built, niches are carved in and corners are detailed during the process of actual building. He believes in the triad of the architect, the craftsman and the client. He builds houses by making sketch on paper that a mason can comprehend. He follows a method of construction that creates similar elements in assemblies varying according to the function and scale of each project.


1938 1970 1983 1987 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994 1995 2003 Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Fellow of Indian Institute of Architects. Member of British Empire. First Indian National Habitat Award. I.I.A. Medal for Outstanding Architect of the Year. Great Masters Architect of the Year. Padma Shree. U.N.O. Habitats Award. U.N. Roll of Honour. International Union of Architects (I.U.A.) Award. People of the Year Award. I.I.A. Babu Rao Maitre Gold Medal. Doctorate of University of Central England. Basheer Puraskaram.