Laurie Baker Architecture

Thursday, January 03, 2008

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.

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