For over 60 years British-born architect Laurie Baker worked to build low-cost and ecologically sound homes in India. On 1 April 2007, at the age of 90, Baker died and was buried in the south Indian city that had been his home for decades.
Baker first arrived in India in 1945 on his way back home to Birmingham after having spent a few years working with a medical team in remote parts of China. A year later Baker returned to India to build hospitals in India for a Christian charity group called Mission to Lepers. From then on he stayed in India.
Baker’s work with the mission took him all over the country. Baker’s designs utilised the most easily available and cost-friendly local materials, according to Sajan PB, an architect who worked with him over 17 years. “For him low-cost did not mean low quality. It was all about using sustainable materials properly,” said Sajan.
In 1970 Baker moved to Trivandrum, the capital of the southern state of Kerala, and began work on a series of architectural projects in what became known as the Laurie Baker style – using local, mostly inexpensive materials to build quality buildings and homes. Among other things, his technique allowed natural movement of air to cool interiors in sweltering Kerala.
Baker, along with several architects, founded the Center Of Science and Technology For Rural Development or COSTFORD, which works on projects targeted at poor families.
Baker’s last works consisted of two slum rehabilitation projects that will provide over 1,000 homes to Trivandrum’s poor.
Baker is survived by his wife Elizabeth, son Tilak and daughters Vidya and Heidi.