Laurence Wilfred Baker, better known as Laurie baker, was an Indian Architect born in England and completed his architectural studies there. He graduated in 1937 at age 20 in a period of political unrest in Europe. Later, he joined his hand with the Friends Ambulance Unit to serve those who were affected by the disease Leprosy. He served his mission as a nurse, midwife, and also an architect in China and Burma. He went to India in 1945 as a part of the missionary and was admired by the words of Gandhiji. He lived and worked in India for over 50 years. He obtained Indian Citizenship in 1989 and resided in Trivandrum, Kerala, where he later started an organization called COSTFORD (Center of Science and Technology for Rural Development ) for spreading awareness of low-cost housing. He passed away on 1 April 2007, aged 90.
Pallikoodam school is one of his masterpieces among several of his projects. Mary Roy, the founder of the school, got an opportunity to get to know about Laurie Baker, and approached him to design her dream school.
The site is located on highly sloped terrain in Kalathipady, Kottayam. Laurie was very strong to not destroy the terrain and had to build according to it. He didn’t want to cut down the trees, so he changed it to a particular shape according to the design.
The upper contours are serviceable from the road, contain the formal functions of the kitchen, and services in a rectangular courtyard building, the dining hall, breaking free from the composition.On the lower ground, the rooms are twisted, turned and triangulated into varied positions and sizes, offering choices of formal classrooms as well as study dens, large halls, and smaller nooks. This plan reflects the way the children get to learn here and the playful wall reflects the flexibility and meets the needs of Mary Roy. Her vision and her thoughts are prior to this plan. It appreciates gathering rather than dispersing into alone. That’s why she chose him to call him “Magical Architect”.
Construction Technique and Materials used
Baker’s advice on architectural techniques and methods, roots from the practical approach and respect for the local building culture and he often said that “Architecture is mostly the common sense”.
Baker found his English construction education to be inadequate for the types of issues and materials he was faced with. Baker had no choice but to observe and learn from the methods and practices of Vernacular Architecture.
From his learning and observation, he usually used brick and concrete as a material. For him, Plastering is the dull and characterless thing that hides the beauty and varied texture of the brick. He likes the texture of Brick, of Stone, Of Concrete, Of Wood. Glass bottles and old garage items are the predominant materials which are used along with the building. As children will never get bored of their spaces. Another characteristic is the use of Organic, Flowy roofs blend into the natural surroundings, with the landscape being a prime feature of a design. Irregular pyramid-like structures on roofs, which one side left open and tilting into the wind. His design should have a traditional Indian sloping roof and terracotta.
Rat Trap Bond Masonry:
Rat trap bond brick masonry is an alternative to normal English bond masonry walls by which 15% of the cost can be reduced without compromising the quality, strength, and appearance.
A dome can be thought of as an arch that has been rotated around its central axis. These dome like-arches, have a great deal of structural strength and can span large open spaces without interior support.
The Filler slab reduces the cost by 20-25%. Fewer materials needed, Economical and reduced the self-load.
Brick Jali Walls:
Brick jali walls, a perforated brick screen that utilizes natural air movement to cool the interior and create the pattern of light and shadow.
Philosophy and Principles of Laurie Baker
- A site is ideal only in the undisturbed natural state and a building needs to renew and strengthen the original conditions of the site to be accommodated.
- The architecture should be merged with the surrounding landscape. Rather than set itself apart. It should not compete with nature.
- The architecture at a place should be responsive to the climate, context, and available resources.
“I have my own principles, which I am unwilling to abandon. I dislike falsehood and deceit. A building should be truthful.” – Laurie Baker.
Always study the site, Every building should be unique, Study and know local materials, Make Cost Efficiency are the predominant principles he used in this design.
“I Never Build For Classes Of People – High Income, Middle Income or Low Income Group, Tribals or Fishermen. I only Build for a Mathew, A Bhaskeran, A Muneer or A Sankaran.” – Laurie Baker
Designing and building low cost, High Quality, Suited to or built for lower-middle to lower-class clients. His Initial drawings have an only idealistic link to the final construction, with most of the accommodation and design choices being made on-site by himself. He is a role model for architects and non-architects also.
Baker stood for his relentless pursuit of the question- “ Is It Necessary? If It is Not, Don’t do it!
Even after the Architect’s demise, his buildings still have his breath and express his ideas and vision. It will remain after the years to show how aesthetically and economically they made it. Even now, His philosophies and principles are getting followed by many and it will be in the future too because of its sustainability and the way of approaching the user’s needs.
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