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Sustainable Design
 
Laurie Baker: Why is his work ignored?
Hey I just joined the group today and thought I'd make my first post about someone who has influenced me quite profoundly Mr Laurie Baker. For the benefit of other group members interested in this unique man and his work I recently came across this website:

Lauriebaker.net

Wikipedia says its his official website. Nevertheless the site has a wealth of information on Baker. What I actually loved was the more personal information on Baker's thoughts and value system which seem intrinsically linked to his architectural principles. Anyway for those who have no idea who Baker is (unfortuantely probably quite a few) check out his entry on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurie_Baker

Ok, now for my rant. I am perplexed why a country like India continues to ignore the work of Baker which is highly relevant practical and proven to produce results. Granted we all see the image of the Awakening giant India blah blah but the stark reality is that there are still several millions homeless in India. Unless the government adopts some of Baker's principles there is no way that houses can be provided for these many people. And what DOES the Indian government mean by a house? A small cube laid out in rows of identical souless box-like "huts". Baker's work in several slum areas have produced houses which these slum dwellers are proud to call their homes... that too at a fraction of the cost the government uses to make their excuses for houses! Everytime I visit India, my friends in cities trumpet the fact that India is now "advanced" and point proudly to steel and glass skyscrapers. But what I see is the small semi-naked dirty child standing outside its slum dwelling just next to the skyscraper. As a Westerner, I feel it is time India stops apeing the West and be proud of its own architecture that is suitable to its climate. I was amused when I went to see a "bigtime" Chennai architect in his swanky office. The power ewent out and the AC stopped working. So we sat sweltering in the heat not able to open even a window even there was a pleasnt breeze outside and it was too hot outside. Of course "his office" was a glass multistoreyed building totally unsuited to the climate of the place! Another unfortunate thing is that people often pigeon-hole Baker as a "low-cost" or "green" architect. His use of space and light and innovative use of materials such as mud and brick alone make him a GREAT architect. The aesthetic quality of his designs are (to me at least far superior to the building blocks that many Indian architects seem to mindlessly copy from western designers without looking at how suitable it is for locl climaye and requirements) To see what I mean check out photos here:

Photos of Buildings

Photos of his amazing house the Hamlet I was lucky enough to visit:

Baker's home, the Hamlet

Some photos I personally found quite inspiring and brought a smile to my face. Baker on the roof on one of his building sites while in his 80s!!

Baker at work

Rant ends.... Christina Foster
Christina Foster
Responses
 
Laurie Baker: Why is his work ignored?
The new website is really good, but still Baker is an architect and a humanist whose worth is much more than what the website or the various articles which had been written on him can convey.

It is not that Baker's work is ignored completely. There are lot of youngsters who are doing work on similar lines.

There are certain things when it comes to the popularisation of Baker's works. One was that he was very unconventional and did not have an 'office' in the conventional way. It might be difficult for many others to do in a similar way. Baker may not be considered as a "successful architect". For many others, success means a big office, lot of big big projects (mostly done by able assistants), the number of people working under them, taking part in international conferences, latest project appearing in all these glossy magazines etc. If you apply these criteria, Baker is not successful. Many of the architects may not be able to take up this challenge and they will admit in personal conversations that they would have loved to do something like this. For Baker, creativity had a major role to play, not the business or management part of architectural practice. 2000 projects done in 25 years, he should have been the richest architect in Kerala, but as far as I know, he owns only the "Hamlet" and nothing else. How many of us will be able to devote ourselves to architecture like him.

As Christina says, the creative side of his architecture is not understood properly. He is mostly seen as a low cost architect. With the limited resources, he created buildings which people love. He designed buildings for his clients. That is not easy.

As Baker said, "We should be designing as Indians for Indians in India." If we keep this in mind, then India will not have many of the buildings which are being built now in its cities and rural areas.

Benny Kuriakose
Benny Kuriakose
Laurie Baker: Why is his work ignored?
according to me he lived his times with his conviction.sustainibility with esthetics is the key of his design,but architectural acadamicians have mostly done wrong presentation and put his work as lawcost architecture,hence not in vouge.
Dushyant Nathwani
Laurie Baker: Why is his work ignored?
After looking at the Baker's page, I decided, that I must read all his publications.
For me he stands in a line with Gaudi and Fath.
To get more of his ideas in the field of rural (lowcost) housing implemented, they must be simplified and start form the traditional architecture (without formal architects), which represents a lot of experience. Much of this gets spoilt by "modern" non-adapted influence and is unfortunately spreaded by "professionals" who hardly have roots in the rural area or a propper understanding of the problems.
In the Gujarat post earthquake reconstruction I was involved in random stone masonry houses (unplastered), reflecting the traditional floor plan. That would be my preferred house if living in the area.
Introducing stepwhise more of Baker's ideas in a way that simple villagers understand it and get benefits out of it is in my opinion the best way.
I call this "Reachable Technology". If propperly reflecting the needs and means of the users, it shall produce a snowball effect.
Norbert E. Wilhelm
Laurie Baker: Why is his work ignored?
I imagine the reason why the work of Laurie Baker has been ignored is if he was a plain spoken person with practical ideas then the academic and media worlds` would not be interested.
Frank John Snelling
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