2 April 2007

Laurie Baker

Laurie Baker
March 2nd, 1917 to April 1st, 2007

Eminent architect Laurie Baker, a pioneer of low-cost, organic housing in India, died in his residence at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on April 1st, 2007. The British-born architect was 90 years of age and had been keeping indifferent health for quite some time. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth.

Inspired by Gandhian ideals, Baker devoted himself to popularising low-cost housing in different parts of India. Although based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala for the last few decades, Laurie Baker's influence and inspiration can be seen in Tiruvannamalai and Tamil Nadu, where many people have modelled their homes using his principles.

For more on mud, organic housing check:

Laurie Baker was born in England in 1917 and after studying in the Birmingham School of Architecture became an Associate of the Royale Institute of British Architects.

His practice was interrupted by World War II and he became an anaesthetist to a mobile surgical team. Later he became involved entirely in the treatment and control of leprosy in West China. Trying to return to the U.K. in 1944 he had to wait in Bombay for a boat for three months at a time when Gandhi was there.

He was greatly influenced by Gandhi and returned to work in India after a very brief spell at his home in England. In 1948 he married Elizabeth Jacob, a like-minded doctor from Kerala and until the mid 1960's they lived and worked in a remote Himalayan region where they built their own home, hospital and schools and brought up their children.

It was during this period that Laurie Baker acquired his insight into the problems and actual conditions of Rural India, together with his deep appreciation of indigenous architecture. After the death of his father in England, Laurie's mother, at the age of 84 years also came out to India to share her life with the family in the Himalayas and she remained with them until her death 10 years later.

With the advent of development in that Himalayan area, the Bakers decided to move South to Kerala and chose a remote mountain area amongst the tribals to build another home and hospital. In 1970 The Bakers handed over their medical work to others and settled in Trivandrum where they continued until this day to involve themselves in a a mixture of medical, architectural and building works.

Laurie Baker was conferred Indian citizenship a couple of decades ago and was awarded the Padmashree award and served on the Board of several State and National housing projects.


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