K . AKHIL SAI MOHAN
B.ARC - ‘ V ‘ SEM …
NAME : LAURANCE WILFRED BAKER
NATIONALITY : BRITISH-ORIGIN, INDIAN
BIRTH DATE : MARCH 2, 1917
BIRTH PLACE : BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND
DATE OF DEATH : APRIL 1, 2007,
EDUCATION AND MISSIONARY WORK
Laurie Baker was interested in design. In his childhood he would
accompany his father every weekend to visit cathedrals and other
old buildings and then he would build models and draw pictures of
what he had seen.
Baker studied architecture in Birmingham and graduated in 1937, aged
20. His initial commitment to India had him working as an architect for an
international and interdenominational Mission dedicated to the care of
those suffering from leprosy.
Finding his English construction education to be inadequate for the types
of issues and materials he was faced with: termites and the yearly monsoon,
as well as laterite, cow dung, and mud walls, respectively, Baker had no
choice but to observe and learn from the methods and practices of the
Laurence Wilfred "Laurie" Baker was an award-winning English architect,
renowned for his initiatives in low-cost housing. He CAME to India in 1945 in
part as a missionary and since then lived and worked in India for over 50
years. He obtained Indian citizenship in 1989 and resided in
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala. In 1990, the Government of India
awarded him with THE PADMA SHRI, the nation's fourth highest civilian
award, in recognition of his meritorious service in the field of architecture.
1963 he moved to rural Kerala and
started an Ashram at Kurisumala in a
place called . Both in Pithoragarh and
Vagamon baker started a hospital and
several schools and these were the
opportunities for him to design and
build. After that he moved to Trivandrum.
Here his work I nclude just 1000
residences and 40 churches chappels
and other buildings. In 1941, Laurie
volunteered to go on a mission to help at a
medical camp at Kutsing in inland China.
Gandhian principles infused his work, as they did his life. “I now
think Gandhi was right,” he wrote in 1975, “when he said that all the
building materials should be found within five miles of the site”, and
“Low-cost techniques should not be considered only for the poor —
our aim should be to design only the simplest of buildings for all.”
HIS architectural principles of cost-effectiveness, use of locally
available materials, respect for nature, avoidance of energyintensive materials and wastage minimization to create low-cost,
beautiful, high quality buildings which long pre-empted modern
concepts such as eco-friendliness and sustainable architecture.
He has designed and built a dance village, computer institutes,
fishermen’s huts, chapels and churches, factories, schools, film
studios, orphanages, tourist resorts, residences, technical
institutes, earthquake and tsunami resistant houses, leprosy
homes, a Literacy Village, hostels, slum dwellings improvement, an
ornithology centre, government buildings, a blind children’s
international school and a museum
He has also done pioneering work into earthquake and tsunami
PRINCIPLES OF GOOD HOUSING
1. IT should be made very clear that the Principles of good housing for
whatever strata of society in whatever geographic or climatic regions, and
concerning planning, design, materials and construction techniques are in no
way different whether for rural or urban housing.
a) We must plan for the people who will occupy the house their needs, their
pattern of living, their religious ideals, their occupations etc.
b) We must as far as possible use locally available inexpensive materials.
c) These materials must be as energy-free or as energy conserving as
d) The striving for structural stability together with an acceptable and
pleasing look must be maintained.
• The structure will be able to cope with all aspects of climate, whether
of intense heat or cold, or of heavy rain or driving wind etc.
•Planning must be not only of a house, but of its services and its land
and it must take into full
•Consideration possible occupations including the keeping of
• It is frequently assumed by planners of all sorts that the rural housing is
inferior to urban housing. This is not so.
• Usually the needs and the planning and the implementation of rural
housing is more complex and calls for more planning
We should also keep in mind, as planners, the very long traditions and
patterns of rural living. In particular the use and planning of the space
surrounding a house that is the compound, however small, is of more
important and value to the occupants than the few rooms of the house.
Many occupations providing preparation of food, utensils and tools,
farming, live-stock and so on are done outside, not inside the house
4. There is no one type of plan, no one set of materials, no one type
of construction techniques, no one set of rules that will be applicable
to all parts of India, but the above principles do apply everywhere
Throughout his practice, Baker became
well known for designing and building low
cost, high quality homes, with a great
portion of his work suited to or built for
lower-middle to lower class clients.
His buildings tend to emphasize prolific at times virtuosic- masonry construction,
instilling privacy and evoking history with
brick jali walls, a perforated brick screen
which utilises natural air movement to
cool the home's interior and create
intricate patterns of light and shadow
JALI WALL at Central for
The living room of Dr. Dolas' residence, Baker
playfully uses curved forms.
The Hamlet', Laurie Baker's home,
built on a steeply sloping and rocky hillside.
Another significant Baker feature is irregular, pyramid-like
structures on roofs, with one side left open and tilting into the wind.
Curved walls enter Baker's architectural vocabulary as a
means to enclose more volume at lower material cost than straight walls.
Baker's architectural method is one of improvisation, in which initial
drawings have only an idealistic link to the final construction, with most
of th accommodations and design choices being made on-site by the
In one of the exhibition rooms, there is a chart written in his own hand listing
the many things of wisdom he discovered through his extremely productive
working life as an architect and a humanist:
• Only accept a reasonable brief
• Discourage extravagance and snobbery
• Always study your site and see potential relating to the soil,
drainage, power, fuel etc.
• You yourself get accurate site details and in-situ facts
• Every building should be unique; no two families are alike, so
why should their habitation be alike?
• Study and know local materials, cost, building techniques and
• Study the energy used in the production of materials and transport
• Don’t rob national resources; don’t use them extravagantly or
• Be honest in design, materials, construction, costs and your own
•Avoid opulance and showing-off by using currently fashionable
• Get your conscience out of deep-freeze, and use it
• Look closely at your prejudices and question them
• Have faith in your convictions and have the courage to stick to
The living room at 'The Hamlet'. An
integration of new building and salvaged
traditional buildings that were being
The India coffee house in
• Each area has evolved empirically over centuries, ways of building to
use local materials so that they remain structurally stable and withstand
local climatic hazards. They also have coped with traditional, local,
religious and social patterns of living
•A common urge of contemporary architects, planners and do-gooders is
to put in large glass windows. Remember that in rural areas you often
work in the sun and enter a house to be away from heat and glare. You
also want to be able to shut out insects, mosquitoes, bats etc. Also
remember that a square metre of window costs about ten times as much
as the square metre of plain wall it replaces.
• Also security is important. A whole rural family may be out in the fields for
long parts of the day. The fewer your possessions, the more valuable and
essential they are to you!
• Very often a Jali wall is a better
substitute for a glass window. It lets in
general subdued light. It also deals with
ventilation but prevents driving rain from
entering. You can look from the inside to
the outside but from the outside you
cannot see inside. It is secure and thieves
or animals cannot enter.
• Jalis can be made from brick, tile,
laterite, stone, cane or bamboo and so on.
Their patterns are endless and pleasing.
Unlike windows, simple Jalis cost less than
the wall they replace.
RAT TRAP BOND
• Use bricks in districts
where it is made and is
4.5" walls are
stable and strong if
• 25% of bricks, mortar, cost
etc can be saved by using the
Rat trap Bond. This can also
9" walls are
usually capable of
bearing up to
• Be safely used up to 3
storeys in height and is
equally load bearing
1. Their main advantage over burnt brick walls is that no energy /
fuel are used in their manufacture.
2. There are many varieties of mud wall systems
3. Mud must be protected from water of any sort.
4. Use local methods unless you can prove “advanced methods” are
5. The easiest type of mud wall is to use the same shape and size
brick as the burnt brick, but leave it un-burnt. Masons do not have to
relearn-they use it in exactly the same bond and methods as they do
the burnt brick.
1. Use Arches rather than lintels
2. Many varieties of arches (see booklet) flat, segmental, pointed
rounded, corbelled, and so on.
3. All arch methods are equally suitable for mud wall construction
4. Remember to give adequate width of support walls to deal with the
5. Frame work, templates, arch frames must be removed immediately
the arch is completed (to allow for compression as the mortar dries
Doors and Windows
1. Wood is getting scarce and costly. Use as little as possible.
2. In many instances frameless doors and windows are acceptable and
reduce both quantity of
timber, labour and costs
3 .Board and batten type shutters are less
costly, use less labour and less timber than
4. Glass is often not necessary. Only use
when it has a useful purpose and is
5. Glass manufacture is Energy intensive.
It is extravagant or unnecessary use is
1. Use local materials
2. Remember that cement is energy intensive and should not be
used if there is a good local alternative.
3. Tile (unglazed) floors are traditional and effective.
4. In many areas there is a local flooring stone available. Where so,
ROOFS AND INTETRMEDIATE FLOORS
l. In many areas tile roofs are OK but call for a lot of timber support
(purloins, rafters, battens etc)
2. On the other hand prefabricated and various R.C slabs use energyintensive steel and cement.
3. Both systems have advantages and ‘evil’ disadvantages. These
including labour and transport cost and other problems have to be studied
locally before the better choice is made.
4. Regarding Concrete roofs:
C.B.R.I etc have a variety of systems-L-panels, double funicular shells, etc. In
practice the latteroften has leak problems. Both use steel and cement and
have to be ‘over designed’ to cope with handling and transport.
Alternative slab in-situ systems include filler
slabs (void formers) which reduce materials and
cost by about 30%, but shuttering is costly.
Again, local balancing and comparing of overall
costs, transport, labour, and energy used etc,
have to be made before a choice is made and it
will vary from place to place.
5. Domes and vaults can be done but are mainly
not acceptable to live under: In certain drier
areas the Hassan Fathi or Egyptian system of
frameless domes and vaults is good-but usually
A CORE HOUSE SHOULD BE DESIGNED BOTH IN PLAN AND SECTION SO
THAT AS AND WHEN EXTENSIONS ARE TO BE ADDED, ROOFS, DOORS,
WINDOWS ETC. ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACES.
THE ORIGINAL UNIT MUST ALSO BE CAREFULLY PLACED ON THE PLOT SO
THAT THERE IS SPACE FOR EXTENSION ON ALL SIDES AND BYE-LAWS AND
DISTANCE FROM BOUNDARIES ARE NOT BROKEN.
IF A SMALL PLOT WILL NOT ACCOMMODATE LATERAL EXPANSION OF A
SMALL HOUSE YOU CAN PLAN FOR FUTURE VERTICAL EXPANSION.
YOU MUST OF COURSE COVER YOUR GROUND FLOOR ROOMS WITH A FLAT
ROOF AND IT IS PREFERABLE, ALSO FROM THE BEGINNING, TO PLAN FOR
THESE WILL MAKE YOUR FLAT ROOF UNABLE, AND OF COURSE WILL
EVENTUALLY CONNECT THE ADDITIONAL FLOORS WITH THE ORIGINAL
IF YOUR PLOT AND YOUR FUNDS ARE TOO SMALL, START OFF WITH THE
GROUND FLOOR, BUT PLAN IT TO CONTAIN A STAIR TO TAKE YOU UP, FIRST
TO AN OPEN FLAT ROOF, TO AN OPEN FLAT ROOF TERRACE, AND LATER TO
ANOTHER FLOOR OF BEDROOMS ON THE FIRST FLOOR ABOVE THE ORIGINAL
GROUND FLOOR COTTAGE. THIS EXTENSION WILL ONLY COST HALF AS MUCH
AS THE FIRST BUILDING.
CLUSTER PLANNING AROUND A COMMON OPEN SPACE FOR COMMUNAL
WORK AND PLAY (AND FOR BULLOCK CART PARKING ETC!) CUTS DOWN
PUKKA ROAD LENGTHS, ALLOWS FOR A VARIETY OF HOUSE DESIGNS, AND
AN OPEN NARROW SPACE BETWEEN CLUSTERS CAN CONTAIN FUEL AND
FODDER AND FRUIT TREES, ALONG WITH SPACE FOR SANITATION
INCLUDING COMMUNAL GAS PLANTS ETC.
THIS IS TO SHOW THAT A SINGLE STOREY
HOUSE ON A SMALL PLOT LEAVES VERY
LITTLE SPACE FOR GARDEN ETC.
THESE SKETCHES SHOW THAT ON THE
SAME SIZED PLOT.
DOUBLE STOREYS OR “LOFT TYPE”
HOUSESLEAVE MUCH MORE OPEN
SPACE FOR OUT DOOR OCCUPATIONS.
HERE ARE 3 EQUAL
SIZE HOUSES ON 3
EQUAL SIZE PLOTS
HERE ARE THE SAME 3
EQUAL SIZE HOUSES
BUILT AS ONE BLOCK –
GIVING MUCH MORE
OPEN LAND THOUGH
THE AREA IS THE SAME
AS 3 PLOTS.
SMALL HOUSES ON SMALL PLOTS
LEAVE VERY LITTLE OPEN LAND AROUND EACH HOUSE.
WHEN THERE ARE THREE BROTHERS AND THEIR FAMILIES (OR PERHAPS 3
CLOSE FRIENDS) THE THREE HOUSES CAN BE BUILT AS ONE BLOCK AND
THEN THERE IS MUCH MORE OPEN SPACE FOR EACH FAMILY.
FURTHER MORE – THE UPPER HOUSE ALSO HAS A NICE BIG TERRACE (AS
LARGE AS HIS HOUSE) ABOVE THE TWO GROUND FLOOR HOUSES.
PLOT SHAPES NEED NOT ALWAYS BE
SQUARE OR RECTANGULAR.
RO O F VA R I AT I O N S
20 m2 HOUSE AREA
THE CHOICE OF ROOF IS NOT JUST BETWEEN “PLAIN” OR “FANCY”.
THE MAIN CONSIDERATIONS NEEDED ARE THE MATERIALS AVAILABLE,
THE CLIMATE, THE RAINFALL AND THE WIND DIRECTIONS, AND, MOST
IMPORTANT – THE TRADITIONAL SHAPE
THE MAIN REASON FOR THESE SKETCHES IS TO SHOW THAT A
COMMUNITY DOES NOT HAVE TO HAVE ROWS OF IDENTICAL BOXES.
DON’T BUILD ON THE OUTER EDGE OF THE
TERRACE. YOU WOULD NEED TO BUILD A
STRONG EXPENSIVE RETAINING WALL.
BUILD THE HOUSE ALONG THE MIDDLE OF
THE TERRACE AND USE A LONG
RECTANGULAR PLAN, NOT A SQUARE ONE.
IF THE TERRACES ARE NARROW IT IS SOMETIMES
POSSIBLE TO BUILD A “STEPPED HOUSE”.
is the very essential art
BRICKS, BLOCKS &
ON BOTH sides of a wall
with each other.
IN SOME DISTRICTS STONE IS AVAILABLE, BUT ONLY IN SMALL IRREGULAR
LUMPS. THESE MAKE VERY POOR WALLS WITH NO POSSIBILITY OF GOOD
BONDING. CRACKS SOON DEVELOP.
MAKE A METAL (OR WOOD) BOX (WITHOUT TOP OR BOTTOM) ABOUT 45 CM
LONG 23 CM WIDE AND 15 CM HIGH.
PLACE IN IT THE LARGER STONES AND THEN FILL IN, ALL ROUND, WITH
CONCRETE MADE OF THE SMALL STONES. AFTER DRYING AND REMOVING
THE BOX YOU HAVE AN EXCELLENT BUILDING BLOCK.
ADOBE OR SUN DRIED BRICKS
THIS IS VERY OLD, WELL TRIED AND TESTED MUD BRICK SYSTEM COMMON IN
MANY PARTS OF KERALA.
IF PROPERLY MADE, THESE MUD SUN DRIED BRICKS ARE CAPABLE OF BEING USED
FOR A TWO STOREY HOUSE.
A HAND OPERATED MACHINE
COMPRESSES THE EARTH INTO HARD,
STRONG BRICKS (THE MACHINE CAN BE
OWNED BY THE COMMUNITY OR
THESE CAN BE USED FOR EVEN THREE
STOREY HOUSES, THOUGH EACH
STOREY MUST BE PROTECTED FORM
RAIN BY OVERHANGING SLABS.
WITH A PROPERLY MADE FRAME
(WHICH CAN BE TAKEN TO PIECES)
RAMMED EARTH MAKES A VERY
IT IS ESSENTIALLY GOOD FOR
LOW, SOLID LOOKING BUILDINGS
CAN TAKE THE WEIGHT OF HEAVY
ROOFING SUCH AS REINFORCED
STRAIGHT, LONG, THIN
WALLS CAN NOT BE
EXPECTED TO CARRY ROOF
LOADS AND MUST
BE EXPECTED TO BULGE,
CRACK AND BREAK,
IF NOT WELL PLANNED.
CENTRE FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES ULLOOR,
The most important project of baker’s
career. The significance of this
assignment had less to do with size and
budget, than with the idea of exhibiting
a range of concepts applied to buildings
of varying functions, scale and
dimensions. An area of nine acres
accommodates administrative offices, a
computer centre, an amphi-theatre, a
library, classrooms, housing and other
components of an institutional design.
The Computer centre, 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
Here, at the summit, the library dominates the centre with a seven-storey
tower; the administrative offices and classrooms are scattered in a
randomness determined by each one's position on the slope. However, the
buildings remain tightly connected through corridors that snake upwards to
the library along breezy walkways and landscaped courts.
Building textures, configurations and spanning elements demonstrate
Baker’s easy manipulation of brick, all of which were made close to the site
and fired with locally-available coconut palm wood. All surfaces, whether
inside or out, in the dormitory or classroom, are exposed to patterns showing
varying honding techniques and jali work. Openings are arched, corbelled or
spanned with brick lintels. Wall thicknesses change on different floors,
depending on the loading and requirement.
LOYOLA CHAPEL AND AUDITORIUM SREEKARAYAM,
The Loyola complex contains a high school and a
post-graduate complex, both sharing a common
chapel and an auditorium. It was here that Baker's
skills of cost-reduction met their greatest
challenge, as it required a seating capacity of one
thousand. In order to increase the lateral strength
of the high brick wall, without the introduction of
any steel or concrete, Baker devised a wide cavity
doublewall with cross-bracing brick.
Windowless cavity wall
Both the walls were pierced with a continuous floor-to-roof pattern of
jails, so that the chapel was adequately, though somewhat mysteriously, litand
ventilated. Despite its tall proportions, the acoustics of the hall were
remarkable-the exposed surfaces and the open patterns of brickwork
controlling the reverberations.
The total covered area of the chapel
and auditorium and the gallery is
approximately 930 square meters. The
cost in 1970-71, including the
furniture and appurtenances, lighting
and sanitation was kept within the
original gift sum of 1.75 lakh rupees
1. Chapel nave
9. Green room
HOUSE FOR DR A. VAIDYANATHAN KUMARAPURAM,
It is the one of the Baker's more successful circular houses. In the
Vaidyanathan house, the rooms are arranged in a wide arc facing the sea. The
plan orients outwards in a double semicircle which incorporates all the major
spaces of the house on the upper floor: living, dining and bedroom, with the
semi circleending in a study at one end and a car port in the other. A staircase
at the entrance travels down to the lower floor that isbuilt against the
retaining wall of the hill and houses two additional bedrooms and a study.
However, the brick walls of these rooms are separated from the inner stone
retaining wall by a small air space, setting up an effective termite and
A significant architectural feature of the Vaidyanathan House
is an open-to-sky circular court, completing the inner wall of
the house in a pattern of staggered brick and becoming the
home of an ancient mango tree. Surprisingly, the entrance
door is located on the side at the meeting point of the house
and court wall-and not on an axial approach as may be
One of the prominent landmarks in the Thampanoor area of Trivandrum,
where both the railway station as well as the bus terminal are located, is the
Indian Coffee House designed by Laurie Baker. This building, courtesy of its
unusual design has become one of the most recognisable structures in
Trivandrum. The entire building is conceived as a continuous spiral ramp, with
a central circular service core and with dining spaces provided on the outer
side. The form of the building is thus unconventional & bears Baker’s
trademark jaalis to let in light & ventilation. The building is well proportioned,
a cylindrical brick-red spiral continuing for a couple of floors and then
terminating in a smaller cylindrical volume on top, giving a very
unsymmetrical balance to the whole structure.
What one needs to
appreciate is Baker’s
masterful intervention in a
very small plot in the middle
of a busy urban area. The
solution to the design
programme is bold and
unusual, yet, one which
successfully integrates all the
elements of the programme
and one which creates a
comfortable and interesting
dining experience. Most of
the people who see this
building are automatically
drawn into it due to curiosity.
On the inside, Baker has
successfully solved the
programmatic requirement of
providing eating spaces by
creating modules of built-in
table and seating, with an
individual table and its two
benches placed on an
individual horizontal platform.
Thus, on the outer side
abutting the external jaali
wall, there are continuous
incrementally rising in height
along with the slope of the
The material palette is again
typical Baker. The walls are made
of exposed brickwork which has
been painted over – white on the
inner side & brick-red on the
exterior. There are no windows –
jaalis serve to bring in plenty of
light & ventilation, ensuring that
the interiors are nice &
comfortable. The table and the
seats are built-in. The table
consists of a concrete slab fixed to
the wall & with a semicircular
taper on one side. This slab is
resting on a small brick arch which
serves as the legs.
The seats are again interestingly
designed and accommodate 2
people comfortably on either side.
The seats of adjacent tables are
abutting back to back, but are at 2
different levels to accommodate
the slope. The seats are again
made in brickwork and are
finished with block-oxide on top
and the backrest. The remarkable
thing about these built-in
furnitures is that Baker has
designed them so very precisely
ergonomically that they are very
comfortable to use, inspite of
being so simple.
There is a circular service core in
the centre, which consists of 2
concentric circles. The inner
smaller circular core is a narrow
vertical shaft open on the top,
with openings at different levels.
This shaft provides ventilation to
the central areas and works on the
principle of Stack effect, a very
simple but effective solution that
is so typical of Baker. Around this
circular core are the service areas,
especially the toilets & handwash.
The kitchen is placed on the
ground floor and has a separate
Now although the building is unique in design, there are a few
functional issues. Due to the placement of the kitchen on the ground
level, it becomes difficult for the serving staff as they have to
continuously climb up and down the ramp to place the orders & then
to serve the people sitting on the upper levels. Thus, they in fact ask
the customers to occupy the lower seating first before going up the
spiral. Also, the slope of the ramp is a bit steep, which contributes to a
slippery slope which sometimes results in a few falls. Yet, one cannot
deny the ingenuity of Baker to come up with such a design solution in
such an urban context, creating a memorable building.
AWARDS & RECOGNITION
1938: Associate of the Royal Institute of Architects (ARIBA)
1970: Fellow of the Indian Institute of Architects
1981: D.Litt conferred by the Royal University of Netherlands for outstanding
work in the Third World
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
Kerala Government Certificate of Appreciation
2006: L-Ramp Award of Excellence
2006: Nominated from the Pritzker Award (considered the Nobel Prize in
International Leprosy Mission
Welthy Fisher's Literacy Village, Lucknow
Andhra Pradesh Quaker Cyclone Project
Latur Earthquake Proof Housing Project
Tsunami-proof Housing Project
He Has designed and built a dance village, computer institutes,
fishermen’ s huts, chapels and churches, factories, schools, film
studios, orphanages, tourist resorts, residences, technical institutes,
earthquake and tsunami resistant houses, leprosy homes, a Literacy
Village, hostels, slum dwellings improvement, an ornithology centre,
government buildings, a blind children’ s international school and a