AR.

LAURIE BAKER – A PROFILE

LAURIE BAKER – THE BRICK MASTER OF
KERALA
Original name : Laurence Wilfred Baker Born on : 2nd March 1917 Burmingham, England. Resides in : Trivandrum, Kerala. Baker’s 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.

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

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

it has to be complemented or overshadowed by the inner contents since. It should not be in competition with the nature. but in harmony with it “. “ The architecture should merge with the surrounding landscape. irrespective of trend or style “. rather than standing out. context and the available resources – it should be for the people. . “ The architecture at a place should be responsive to the climate. “ The outer form alone is meaningless.PHILOSOPHY IN PRACTICE “ 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 ”. their needs and hopes. the spatial experience of an inhabitant is more important than pure visual forms” .

while planning. a reservoir adjacent to his buildings in the direction of prevailing breeze enabling natural cooling. Baker has improvised the traditional roof by the addition of a windscoop. the driving rain and the incident sun. . religion. He uses traditional Indian techniques and technology to evolve indigenous architecture. topography and climate etc. 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’S BASICS EMPHASIZES ON REGIONAL STYLES Baker adapts regional styles so as to suit a particular region with its own people. pyramid-like structures on roofs. with one side left open and tilting into the wind. Baker often provides a water body. an irregular. CONSIDERATION OF CLIMATE – the thermal design of buildings Well known for designing and building functional brick home considering the direction of the prevailing winds.

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

.PLAY OF LIGHT AND SHADOW Baker is fond of visually manipulating the interior spaces by repetitive variation of light and shadow. 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. using brick jali work as a medium.

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

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

A TYPICAL BAKER’S BUILDING . that is reduction in the cost of building. His construction technology brings out the regional identity of the place.CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY ADOPTED ‘BAKER’S MODEL CONSTRUCTION ’ Laurie Baker does not use new construction technology to create new forms but for necessity. 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 Baker’s building include the sloping tiled roof and overhanging eaves.The roof pitch is steep and eaves come down low to protect the walls. Baker provided a cost-effective solution while maintaining the traditional character of the roof. adopted in response to the hot. wet and humid climate of kerala. The roof accounts for about a quarter of the total cost. .

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

Better thermal performance. Maintenance free with concealed electrification. 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. MASONRY WALL IN RAT-TRAP BOND. Reduced self load. Environment friendly. .Exposed brickwork of merely half-brick thickness are used in innovative bonding techniques. Lesser seepage possibilities. 20-25% Cost reduction.

THE BRICK JALI – Baker’s play of light and shadow. a surface of small and regular openings in trellis. Use of jalis is climatically suited as it fragments the harsh sunlight filtering in a uniform glow and breeze. . honey-combed and various other forms. lattice. Baker incorporates brick jali.

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

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

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

THE STAIR-WELL Perforated brick walls create dappled patterns of light. Open yet welled Staircase.Brick spiral staircase is typical in most of the buildings. .

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

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. .

Kerala Architect: Laurie Baker Year : 1971 THE CENTRE FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES .Location : Trivandrum.

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

Thiruvananthapuram.The Computer centre at the 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 air-conditioning a building of this scale and purpose.

The building is made entirely of mud brick. The physical form of an architect’s house is an expression of his own character.Location : Trivandrum. his architectural principles and beliefs. Architect: Laurie Baker THE HAMLET – BAKER’S OWN HOME 'The Hamlet'. is now a visual delight. The residence of Baker is a fusion of nature and home. built on a steeply sloping and rocky hillside that hardly had any vegetation when Baker started constructing it . .

An integration of new building and salvaged timber from traditional buildings that were being demolished . . Baker’s home is planned to blend with the landscape.The living room at 'The Hamlet'.

The focus of this bowl is a spiral staircase suspended at the center. .THE DOLAS HOME Location : Trivandrum.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 entire ground level of the home seems to be made up of a single central volume . Architect: Laurie Baker The Dolas home is a part of a loosely organised housing cluster. consisting of six houses.

STAIR CASE KITCHEN .

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

His ability to improvise on the site. Much of the design detailing is done on the spot at the site. Curved jali walls are drawn by the hand. on the spot. He builds houses by making sketch on paper that a mason can comprehend.WORKING METHODOLOGY Laurie Baker has a style of his own be it in the architecture of the buildings or his working methods. BAKER’S 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. He follows a method of construction that creates similar elements in assemblies varying according to the function and scale of each project. the craftsman and the client. . He believes in the triad of the architect. niches are carved in and corners are detailed during the process of actual building. Openings are designed as the wall is being built. at the site without any sort of equipment.

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

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