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ARCHITECT LAURIE BAKER: The Visionary Rebel!

In the realm of architecture, there are few individuals whose contributions transcend design and construction. Laurie Baker was one such extraordinary figure. His legacy of sustainable and peoplecentric designs continues to inspire generations. The Laurie Baker Centre, established to honor his visionary work, conducts a profound and transformative four-day workshop that immerses participants around the world in the art of working with mud, brick bonds, arches, and enlightening site visits. This article pays homage to Laurie Baker's unwavering commitment to humanity and sustainable design while shedding light on the transformative experience offered by the workshop at the Laurie Baker Centre.

THE LAURIE BAKER CENTRE: A SANCTUARY OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

Diving into the lush green Campus for Habitat Studies, The Laurie Baker Centre stands as a testament to Baker's enduring legacy. At the heart of the center’s mission is the workshop, which offers participants a transformative journey into the realm of sustainable architecture with members of the Organization, V.K Anil Kumar Sir at LBC and Shalini Mam at SEWA. Through hands-on experiences, participants discover the profound impact of working with mud, filler slabs, and bamboo techniques, mastering brick bonds, exploring the elegance of arches, and engaging in enlightening site visits.


Sir RD Padmakumar at Laurie Baker Centre explaining about the  laurie bakers life


MUD - EMBRACING THE EARTH'S WISDOM

The workshop begins first by diving into the concepts and ideologies of Mr P.B Sajan, unveiling the beauty and potential of mud as a sustainable building material. Participants immerse themselves in hands-on activities, learning the art of mud preparation, mixing, and application. They witness firsthand the thermal insulation properties with tests like cigars, biscuits etc, abundance, and harmony with nature that mud brings to architectural spaces. This day instils a profound respect for the Earth's wisdom and encourages participants to embrace the simplicity and sustainability of mud-based construction through form exploration.


Mud workshop in progress

FILLER SLABS AND BRICK BONDS - WEAVING STRENGTH AND UNITY

On the second day of the workshop where Prof. Shaileja explains traditional housing techniques then carried out by R.D Padmakumar, sir unravels the art of brick bonding, a crucial aspect of architectural construction. Initially, the process of filler slabs which is the dominant technique of Sir Laurie, its importance and use of sustainable materials is depicted with volunteers. Enthusiasts delve into the intricate world of different brick bonds patterns like English bond, Flemish Bond, and Rat-trap bond with Mason Mani and others, understanding their structural integrity and aesthetic appeal. Through practical exercises of shuttering, and laying mortar they acquire the skills of bricklaying and experience the power of unity and strength that well-executed bonds bring to a structure. This day celebrates the artistry and craftsmanship embedded within bricklaying techniques.



BAMBOO AND ARCHES - BRIDGING ELEGANCE AND RESILIENCE

Enthusiasts embark on a journey of traditional Bamboo techniques of chopping, drilling, and cutting, processes. Later arches, an architectural element that epitomizes Laurie Baker's work. They explore the principles with Padmakumar Sir of arch construction, uncovering the secrets of load distribution, and structural balance. Engaging in hands-on activities, participants experience the thrill of constructing arches using bricks and other suitable materials. Hands-on practice helps to understand the basics of which side of brick to be used, plum bob leveling, type, etc. This day celebrates the harmonious balance between beauty and resilience, demonstrating how arches can transform a space.


SITE VISITS - LEARNING FROM LIVING EXAMPLES

The final day of the workshop takes participants on inspiring site visits to exemplary sustainable structures. They witness first-hand the application of mud, brick bonds, and arches in real-life projects of Kanthari where one of the members of Kanthari Sir Paul who helps the blind community shared his experiences with Laurie Baker back in 1996, quoting Paul “If you truly love Architecture, it should flow in your blood and veins where you feel the zest and zeal to unleash your true potential to find yourself”.

Engaging with architects and occupants, enthusiasts gain invaluable insights into the integration of sustainable design principles, energy-efficient systems, and the profound connection between architecture and its inhabitants. Through these site visits, one can witness the traditions at Kanthari, the astonishing work of heights at Loyola Chapel, exploration of form, space, and materials at the Centre of Development Studies Campus becomes a catalyst for participants to envision their role in creating sustainable and socially conscious spaces.



THE ICONOCLAST

Laurie Baker's architectural journey was fueled by the teachings and philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi.

Just as Gandhi advocated for simplicity, self-sufficiency, and social justice, Baker applied these principles to his designs. Like a true disciple of Gandhi, Laurie believed that architecture should serve the needs of the common people and strive to uplift society. His approach was marked by simplicity, functionality, and a deep respect for the environment. Baker's tireless efforts to create sustainable and inclusive spaces earned him the endearing title of the Gandhi of Architecture. Laurie Baker's architectural philosophy continues to inspire and guides us, reminding us of the power of simplicity, sustainability, and community-centric design. His unwavering belief that architecture should serve the needs of the people and the environment’s needs is a timeless reminder of our responsibility as architects and builders. Baker's emphasis on using locally sourced materials, embracing traditional techniques, and designing for social upliftment echoes through his iconic structures. His legacy urges us to create spaces that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, eco-friendly, and inclusive. By honoring Laurie

Baker's philosophy, we can strive to create a built environment that harmonizes with nature, respects local cultures, and empowers communities. Let us carry forward his teachings, channeling his spirit of innovation and compassion, as we shape the future of architecture.

Through his philosophies and commendable game-changing works of Art and disrupted Architecture indeed he’s the Gandhi of Architecture.


“Cost Effective houses are not just for the poor; they are for everyone.”

-Sir Laurie Baker

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