Thursday, January 3, 2008

Laurie Baker Architecture

I am thankful. Because, if I didn’t write this blog, I wouldn’t bother searching for and reading up on Laurie Baker- a name most people associated with Kerala and its architecture would know. I roughly knew of him as the architect who had pioneered the bricky style of construction favoured by a lot of Keralites. But reading about him has been both interesting and inspiring.
The late Laurie Baker was a British architect who came to India 60 odd years ago and for the next three years travelled all over the country helping the leprosy mission repair its leprosy homes and build new ones. Here he got exposed to indigenous architecture and was amazed at the way in which simple materials could be used to produce buildings with refined aesthetics and lasting qualities. These formative years laid the foundation of Baker's approach to architecture.

The Centre for Development Studies

Loyola Women's Hostel

Loyola Women's Hostel

The Centre for Development Studies

The Centre for Development Studies

"I don't think I've ever been inspired by what other architects have done but more by what ordinary craftsmen have created. By that I don't mean to say I dislike the work of other architects - much of their work I like and enjoy - but my point is that what they do is not what makes me want to build in a particular way or style - but what has slowly evolved empirically often gives me a great kick, and I want to be part of that continuing evolution or progression. The result is that what I build in Uttar Pradesh or in Gujarat or West Bengal are all different from each other and different from what I build in Kerala. I think probably this term that seems to be used, `a Baker style', is not correct because what Baker does varies from place to place. The so-called Baker style in Kerala is very different from the Baker style in Gujarat because the inspiration or the sources of inspiration are entirely different."- Laurie Baker

The Architect's Home 'The Hamlet'

Abu Abraham's House

Major Jacob's Home

He believed that a house should seem to be owned by its owner and not be merely a statement made by the architect. He is not the kind of person who would sit cooped up in a room with a drafter. For Baker, the blueprint has no finality about it and he does not get work done by giving orders. He never entrusts work to contractors. Baker builds houses by making sketches on paper that a mason can comprehend. Baker is in effect like a head mason himself who is actively involved in every stage of construction, which would result in funtional innovations like compartments for milk bottles near the doorstep or windowsills that double as bench surfaces.
“Bricks to me are like faces. All of them are made of burnt mud, but they vary slightly in shape and colour. I think these small variations give tremendous character to a wall made of thousands of bricks, so I never dream of covering such a unique and characterful creation with plaster, which is mainly dull and characterless. I like the contrast of textures of brick, of stone, of concrete, of wood.”- Laurie Baker

The Centre for Development Studies
"I think I'm subconsciously often strongly influenced by nature, and much of nature's `structural work' is not straight or square. A tall reed of grass in a windy, wild terrain is a long cylinder or a hollow tube; tree trunks and stems of plants that carry fruit and leaves are usually cylindrical and not square. Curves are there to take stresses and strains and to stand up to all sorts of external forces. On top if it all, they look good and beautiful and are infinitely more elegant than straight lines of steel and concrete."- Laurie Baker The Loyola Chappel
Baker distilled his whole philosphy into a set of principles. They are given below written in his own hand: (click on the image to see a larger pic)

All images are from
Coming up next is a unique home in Kerala which cleverly fuses two very different styles of architecture. And still looks very beautiful.


Arch at Rang said...

Wow,wow, & wow Vineeta-

I have always loved brick walls and his style of architecture is so unassuming and yet so beautiful. I absolutely love the lotus pond at the Abu Abraham's residence:-)

Great post!

vineeta said...

Thanx Archana :) Laurie Baker was a revelatation to me. His Gandhian principles made for simple stunning and very economical architecture. What a man.

amber said...

incredible! I can't imagine how they got those bricks form into winding walls and tear shaped pools, quite amazing, thanks for sharing this!

Calie Anderson, C.I.D. said...

Oh Vineeta, I loved this post! The photos and you included many (yeah) were incredible. I was also very taken by Baker's philosophies and how he approached his work like a mason. However, my favorite part was his manifesto or personal rules. They are truly good and inspiring. We have all met or worked for creative directors, architects, designers, etc. that have really let their ego get in the way of their work. Thanks for sharing this. I'll be printing out his manifesto and putting it on my wall.

Vinita said...

Hi Vineeta,
First of all a very happy new year to you. The first post of this year has given us so much to think about. Brick laying is an art. And the fact that we get more mesmerized by the art of masons than archetects is because we know they did not go to any ivy league school , or have a summer internship with a big client. They are regular folks with immense talent and many a times their talent gets unrecognized.

The curved walls, the sunlight peeping through the brick design, the shape of the pond, the water lilies floating, the small kichenette or is it a worship place... what ever it is everything is just picturesque.


studio wellspring said...

wow laurie's work is incredible!
also, you've been tagged. enjoy! :o)
{check my blog for the deets}

small talk said...

Hi Vineeta, what an absolutely lovely blog! And yes, Baker saaipu's houses are delightfully low cost and aesthetically brilliant. Looking forward to more posts on Trivandrum.

vineeta said...

amber, isnt it? I was truly inspired when I saw his body of work! His philosophies and viewpoint of architecture were different & he saw to it that he was a permanent fixture on the sites, so he could be present to solve any problems that the process may throw up- considering each of his buildings was unique.

vineeta said...

Calie I love you for this comment :) I had goosebumps when I read his principles and was totally grateful for finding it. In todays day when conservation of resources is so critical, Baker's Prinicipals are more relevant than ever. The print out idea is great :)!

vineeta said...

Vinita! Happy New year to you too! :) Baker himself couldn't have agreed more with you. The mason who takes pride in his work & knows it better than any architecture school pass-out is whom he admired and worked closely with.

vineeta said...

Angie :) yes, His works something else.
And you've tagged me? what fun, will check your blog asap! :)

vineeta said...

Parvathy! Im so glad you like it :) I have a confession to make. On thursday when I had a deadline I was obsessively reading your blog :) Then had to force myself to shut it- I wasn't working. I havent gotten round to commenting, cause I didn't want to do it on the run.
He was called Baker saaipu! :) but ofcourse he would be & you would know :) At least 2 more posts on Trivandrum coming up :)

tangobaby said...

Hi Vineeta,

I've just discovered you through Studio Wellspring (she's tagged us both).

Your blog is gorgeous and fascinating--I'm hooked. I've just added it to my blogroll so I can spend some time catching up on all of your posts and become a regular reader.

vineeta said...

Hi Tangobaby :)
thanx so much for the compliment :) will check your blog asap.

bhumika said...

Hi vineeta, what a lovely post to begin the new year! It’s amazing how simple bricks can create such beautiful forms. I personally am a great fan of brick structures and one of my favourites is IIMA in my hometown. Not only are they economical, but they are structures that breathe and give a cooling effect during summers.

Thanks for introducing me to Baker. I’m surely motivated to read more about him :)

vineeta said...

Bhumika, thanx :) Bricks are indeed ideal for the Indian weather. And I too am a fan of Louis Kahn's IIM A building. I've even posted about it. You can find it if you look at the IIM label :)

Anonymous said...

Great article to introduce people to this great man!

Check out

for his video bio... his life story is even more remarkable than his work!

GOPAL said...

Ar Laurie Baker...
You have simply done a marvellous work...,,
I am a student of aayojan school in jaipur rajasthan...
and i would be grateful if you can guide me

kaa said...

i am a big fan of laurie baker to. thanks to lots of architect friends who pointed him out to me. the most funny thing about most of his principles are that they are so obvious, it seems common sense. but as they common sense is not so common.

right now i have more off a practical difficulty. I am planning to build a house in the next year in Bhilai (town in chhattisgarh), and would like to follow his principles. when we get down to the actuals, how to find an architect near that place. Or if i get it designed from someone outside, how to get it implemented. Since I am no architect, and have no experience in masonry at all. is there a directory of architects, or trained masons, somewhere which helps people like me, who would like a house build on his principles?

vineeta said...

Kaa, I am no architect and dont have a directory of architects, but you can check this link:

or write to this mail id:

or call:0471-2530031



I got this info from the Laurie Baker website.

kaa said...

thanks a lot Vineeta.
I have mailed them.

Parag said...

Laurie baker architecture revolutionized construction techniques especially in Kerala He was against needless plastering, and also against the use of cement.

Sajeev Ruthra said...

Hi Vineeta,

thanks for posting this building. this is great!!! hope to share this with my New Zealand students.



arvind said...

me planned to build my home in his principle..

but it demands complete patience...

lot of my patience have been tested..

and i am still fond of a "fondfull" architect..