Laurie- Baker by noidarocker


									AR. LAURIE BAKER – A
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
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.
Children’s village, near Nagercoil, tamilnadu, 1965.
Loyola Graduate and Women's Hostel, Sreekaryam, Trivandrum,
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,
Chapel for Sacred Heart Centre, Monroe Island, Quilon, Kerala.
The Hamlet – Baker’s 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” .
                     BAKER’S BASICS

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 wind-
scoop, 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
Baker often provides a water body, a reservoir adjacent to his buildings
in the direction of prevailing breeze enabling natural cooling.

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.


Baker’s concept of low cost housing and cost-effective-
construction proved to be a successful solution to the roofless

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
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 Baker’s 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
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.


•     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, adopted in response
     to the hot, wet and humid climate of
    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.

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.


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.


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
Better thermal performance.
Environment friendly, Maintenance
free with concealed electrification.
Lesser seepage possibilities.
Reduced self load.
20-25% Cost reduction.
THE BRICK JALI – Baker’s 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

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.

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.

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 are direct and simple,
devoid of superfluous comforts,
expensive veneers or flashy details.
Use of unfired brick and red-oxide
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                   Open yet welled
create dappled patterns                  Staircase.
of light.
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%..


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.
It’s 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 architect’s 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 .

                                     Baker’s home is planned
                                   to blend with the landscape.
                  THE DOLAS HOME
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
                  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.


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
He follows a method of construction that creates similar elements in
assemblies varying according to the function and scale of each project.
1938   Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
1970   Fellow of Indian Institute of Architects.
1983   Member of British Empire.
1987   First Indian National Habitat Award.
1989   I.I.A. Medal for Outstanding Architect of the Year.
1990   Great Masters Architect of the Year.
       Padma Shree.
1992   U.N.O. Habitats Award.
       U.N. Roll of Honour.
1993   International Union of Architects (I.U.A.) Award.
1994   People of the Year Award.
       I.I.A. Babu Rao Maitre Gold Medal.
1995   Doctorate of University of Central England.
2003   Basheer Puraskaram.

To top