In the eighteenth century, industrialization was booming in the West, and Britain was gaining power over the Mughal Empire. Once the British East India Company had taken over most of India, their influence India’s diverse cultures began to grow. As the British brought buildings and infrastructure to their new colony in the 1800s, they also brought British styles and culture. Inspirations from European-style palaces greatly impacted architecture in India. This new architecture incorporated Indian techniques and classic English styles, which resulted in a dramatic change in the appearance and use of structures (Sardar).
This combination of styles inspired many architects to start designing more innovative and modern architecture. Laurence Wilfred “Laurie” Baker was an Indian architect who found a love for helping those less fortunate with his architecture. He was born in Birmingham, United Kingdom on March 2, 1917. In 1945 he traveled to Thiruvananthapuram, India to help with the World Leprosy Mission by build homes and hospitals. Baker became attached to India and the work he was doing, and in 1989 he obtained his Indian citizenship (Yohannan). He continued to help those in need with his influence in architecture.
He used patterns and sequences to create space, ventilation, and lighting in his buildings (Burte). Through his philosophy, resourceful use of materials, and design styles, Laurie Baker was able to create innovative architecture for the less fortunate. His works impacted India and the world by developing a popularity for money saving and energy efficient structures. Baker’s philosophy was pivotal to the development of modern, innovative buildings and spaces in India. His philosophy of design brought focus to site-based architecture. Baker did most of his work for the underdog.
His concern for lower classes drove his ambition for creating more ffordable housing. Baker wanted to help the less fortunate because he worried that they were often left out. When Baker designed and worked for those in need, he always reminded himself of who he was working for and why. This helped him make a connection to that person’s life and the building (“Architect”). One of the first steps that Baker took towards cheaper housing and energy efficiency was his innovative “Inside to Out” design. He paid close attention to small details in buildings, and by adjusting the sources of natural light and where shadows lie, he was able to transform the shape of the room by causing an illusion of space.
His use of sequences and patterns in buildings also helped create this effect of more space (Burte). While space and use of light were key ideas in Baker’s “Inside to Out” design, his site-based design process greatly contributed to energy efficiency in his buildings. Although the building itself was very important, Baker took time to educate himself on a site’s surroundings, including the environment. He emphasized incorporating local traditions of architecture into his designs, but also wanted express his own beliefs in works.
One of the important beliefs that Baker had was that it was the use and purpose of the building that made an impact, not the appearance. By not focusing on the design on the outside, he successfully helped create more modern and purposeful architecture (Burte). Although his philosophy helped transform traditional Indian and classic English architecture, Baker’s use of materials allowed further energy efficiency. He strongly believed that limitations created more opportunities than issues. With inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, Baker was able to draw up his own rule for materials needed in a project.
In his five-mile policy, only resources within a five mile radius of the building site would be used. He would not work with anything beyond a five mile radius (Burte). Baker did this because he believed that it was necessary to know the materials that one would be working with before construction began (Baker). This was to ensure that the design of the building would not only be reliable, but it would help the style and composition of the structure tie into the current cultures and styles of the area his site was in. However, Baker did more than limit the materials he used to only those available.
He was interested in creating materials to use, such as planting forests for the sole purpose of building (“Architect”). Baker also used lots of recycled materials in his buildings. For his designs, since timber usually negatively impacted construction, which led him to often use brick and low grade timber, as well as concrete, cement. steel. To save money, Baker would repair an old building to cut costs from construction (Burte). Another way that Baker made an effort to save money was with Costford.
The Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development was founded by Baker, C. Achutha Menon, Kakkadan Raj, T. Chandradutt, and K. Subrahmanian in 1985. Costford is a non-governmental organization that promotes work on in local areas and channels adapted technology and architecture to different cultures and regions. One of its main purposes was to educate people about low costing homes. It did so by focusing on rural development, rather than urban (Nandakumar). Today, Costford aims to bring change to those who face disadvantages in society. By spreading technology and supporting the study of architecture, this organization has been able to successfully distribute education to those who are less fortunate (“1917”).
In addition to his philosophy, use of materials, and involvement in Costford, Baker had a list of twenty architectural principles that expressed his feelings on architecture. These principles mainly focus on the architect himself, the site and building, and saving materials, energy, and money. All of Baker’s principles guided himself to be creative and innovative with his designs. They kept him on track and focused on the important things in his work (“Baker’s”). One of the first things that Baker would do before designing was make sure that he was willing to follow through with the project.
He needed to be sure that he was capable of completing it to ensure that no materials or time would be wasted. When he moved onto designing, Baker thought that the appearance of a building was irrelevant and only led to more work and materials used. He also wanted each and every building that he designed to be unique. Not only did he make his own buildings stand out, but he encouraged other architects to give meaning to all their buildings. Baker was careful to not show off his work. He believed that having faith in your skills and being responsible and respectful were more important than being able to boast and brag about one’s work.
He also tried to keep his designs simple and keep out unnecessary features (“Baker’s”). In more of his principles, Baker stressed the importance of the site and use of materials, rather than the building itself. He was never concerned with the appearance of a building, but he did care about use of unnecessary resources. Baker put his hardest work and efforts into making sure that the building was purposeful and reliable. He would take the time to carefully examine and study a site. By doing this, he was able to learn about the materials available. He also made sure to follow his five-mile policy.
After examining the life in the area in which the site was located, Baker was able to incorporate local cultures and traditions into his design. Including cultures and beliefs in his work was very important to Baker, and he even made sure that he added some of his own beliefs and styles into his work. This allowed Baker to create a building with great meaning and purpose at a low cost. Baker always made sure to remember that he was more focused on helping the lower classes, because he felt like those people were usually left out (“Baker’s”). The remaining principles express Baker’s interest in saving.
First, he took time to familiarize himself with the availability of water, drainage access, power, fuel, and other resources used in a home. This would help him determine part of the design, which would make access to these resources easier. One principle that Baker could not stress enough was to never use unneeded materials. He wanted to prevent architects from “robbing” national resources. Baker’s most important principle on saving money was to make cost efficiency a way of life. However, he did not just mean for the poor. Baker wanted everyone to be inspired by low cost housing.
He believed that with lower costs, resources would not be wasted and a home would have more meaning (“Baker’s”). In conclusion, Laurie Baker helped create a more modern and purposeful form of architecture by using his own philosophy when designing, limiting his use of materials, and creating his own design styles and following his principles. His efforts to popularize low cost housing impacted the world by creating a new form of energy efficient and low cost architecture. Without Laurie Baker, simple and resourceful buildings would not be as common as they are today all around the world.
Energy efficiency drawn into designs would not be as useful. Baker has opened a path for architects to explore their own creativity and imagination for unique designs. By implementing his own beliefs and principles into his work, he inspired many to do the same and create meaningful work for themselves and others. His ideas have encouraged many to freely incorporate their own culture into their designs, and to have confidence in their work. Baker has truly impacted the world with his work and creativity. His confidence allowed his designs to reach a new level of original and inventive architecture.