Ar. Laurie Baker - The common man's architect


Ar. Laurie Baker

Laurie Baker was a British-born Indian architect. Born on 2nd March 1917 into a Methodist family. He was the youngest son of Charles Frederick Baker and Millie Baker. His early schooling was at King Edwards Grammar School. Baker had two elder brothers Leonard and Norman who studied law, and had a sister, Edna who was the oldest of them all. While in his teenage Baker began to question what religion meant and had an urge to become a Quaker.

Baker studied architecture at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Birmingham, and graduated in 1937, aged 20, in a period of political unrest in Europe.



The Gandhi Of Architecture, who built sustainable buildings with natural occurring and local materials throughout his practice. Baker became well known for designing and building low cost, high quality, beautiful homes, with a great portion of his work suited to or built for lower middle to lower class clients. The construction of buildings which were in harmony with it's surrounding environment were rarely cleared the construction area of its green cover.



Laurie’s architectural style emphasised mainly on masonry construction, ensuring privacy and use of brick jali walls for natural ventilation. Baker’s designs have traditional sloping roofs and terracotta Mangalore tiles and vents which allow hot air to escape. The difference in temperature in these buildings from outside is upto 3 degree Celsius.Baker’s construction also cost a lot less due to simpler, traditional techniques, like the use of Rat trap bond for brick walls and using bends in the wall to increase the strength. He promoted the use of low energy consuming mud walls, using holes in the wall to get light, simpler windows and a variety of roof construction approaches. He liked bare brick surfaces. He was greatly inspired by the techniques used by the locals for building houses, for which they used materials like laterite, cow dung, rice husks, Bamboo strips and palm fibers, which not only slashed the cost but also was extremely durable.




Laurie Baker died on 1 April 2007, aged 90. Until the end he continued to work in and around his home in Trivandrum. Because of his health concerns, the last days of his life he had kept his famous on-site physical presence to a minimum. His designing and writing were done mostly at his home.



A documentary film titled, "Uncommon Sense: The Life and Architecture of Laurie Baker" has been completed and premiered at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on February 4, 2017 and at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale on January 29, 2017. Uncommon Sense: The Life and Architecture of Laurie Baker explores both the personal and the professional story line of the architect. The writer, producer and director of the film, Vineet Radhakrishnan is a grandson of Laurie Baker.



WORKS:


  • Baker's own residence 'Hamlet' at Nalanchira, Trivandrum. The house resides on a hill top and once was the shelter for Baker and his wife in 1970.

  • Latur Earthquake Proof Housing Project.


AWARDS:

1981: D.Litt. conferred by the Royal University of Netherlands for outstanding work in the developing countries.

1983: Order of the British Empire, MBE

1987: Received the first Indian National Habitat Award

1988: Received Indian Citizenship

1989: Indian Institute of Architects Outstanding Architect of the Year

1990: Received the Padma Sri

1990: Great Master Architect of the Year

1992: UNO Habitat Award & UN Roll of Honour

1993: International Union of Architects (IUA) Award

1993: Sir Robert Matthew Prize for Improvement of Human Settlements

1994: People of the Year Award

1995: Awarded Doctorate from the University of Central England

1998: Awarded Doctorate from Sri Venkateshwara University

2001: Coinpar MR Kurup Endowment Award

2003: Basheer Puraskaram

2003: D.Litt. from the Kerala University

2005: Kerala Government Certificate of Appreciation

2006: L-Ramp Award of Excellence

2006: Nominated for the Pritzker Prize


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