Contemporary Architecture

LAURIE BAKER – Mrs Nalini Nayak’s residence and Computer Centre at Ulloor


(March 2, 1917 – April 1, 2007) British-born Indian architect

  • He went to India in 1945 in part as a missionary and since then lived and worked in India for over 50 years
  • He obtained Indian citizenship in 1989 and resided in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala.
  • In 1990, the Government of India awarded him with the Padma Shri in recognition of his meritorious service in the field of architecture.
  • Baker studied architecture in Birmingham and graduated in 1937, aged 20, in a period of political unrest for Europe.
  • During the Second World War, he served in the Friends Ambulance Unit in China and Burma.


  • Worked as an architect for an international and interdenominational Mission dedicated to the care of those suffering from leprosy.
  • Focused on converting or replacing asylums once used to house the ostracized sufferers of the disease – “lepers”.
  • Used  indigenous architecture and methods of these places as  means to deal with his once daunting problems.

Initial work

  • Baker lived in Kerala with Doctor P.J. Chandy,
  • He received great encouragement and later married his sister
  • while Laurie continued his architectural work and research accommodating the medical needs of the community through his constructions of various hospitals and clinics.
  • Baker sought to enrich the culture in which he participated by promoting simplicity and home-grown quality in his buildings.
  • His emphasis on cost-conscious construction,
  • An ideal that the Mahatma expressed as the only means to revitalize and liberate an impoverished India

Architectural style:

  • Designing and building low cost, high quality, beautiful homes
  • Suited to or built for lower-middle to lower class clients.
  • Irregular, pyramid-like structures on roofs, with one side left open and tilting into the wind.
  • Brick jali walls, a perforated brick screen which utilises natural air movement to cool the home’s interior and create intricate patterns of light and shadow
  • Baker’s designs invariably have traditional Indian sloping roofs and terracotta Mangalore tile shingling with gables and vents allowing rising hot air to escape.
  • Curved walls to enclose more volume at lower material cost than straight walls,
  • Baker was often seen rummaging through salvage heaps looking for suitable building materials, door and window frames.
  • Baker’s architectural method is of improvisation.
  • Initial drawings have only an idealistic link to the final construction, with most of the accommodations and design choices being made on-site by the architect himself
  • His respect for nature led him to let the idiosyncrasies of a site inform his architectural improvisations, rarely is a topography line marred or a tree uprooted.
  • This saves construction cost as well, since working around difficult site conditions is much more cost-effective than clear-cutting
  • Baker created a cooling system by placing a high, latticed, brick wall near a pond that uses air pressure differences to draw cool air through the building
  • His responsiveness to never-identical site conditions quite obviously allowed for the variegation that permeates his work.


  • Filler slab : Advantages:
    • 20-35% Less materials
    • Decorative, Economical & Reduced self-load
    • Almost maintenance free
    • 25-30% Cost Reduction
  • Jack Arch:Advantages :
    • Energy saving & Eco-Friendly compressive roofing.
    • Decorative & Highly Economical
    • Maintenance free
  • Masonry Dome, Advantages:
    • Energy saving eco-friendly compressive roof.
    • Decorative & Highly Economical for larges spans.
    • Maintenance free
  • Funnicular shell, Advantages:
    • Energy saving eco-friendly compressive roof.
    • Decorative & Economical
    • Maintenance free
  • Masonry Arches,Advantages:
    • Traditional spanning sytem.
    • Highly decorative & economical
    • Less energy requirement.


  • 1981: D.Litt conferred by the Royal University of Netherlands for outstanding work in the Third World
  • 1983: Order of the British Empire, MBE
  • 1987: Received the first Indian National Habitat Award
  • 1988: Received Indian Citizenship
  • 1989: Indian Institute of Architects Outstanding Architect of the Year
  • 1990: Received the Padma Sri
  • 1990: Great Master Architect of the Year
  • 1992: UNO Habitat Award & UN Roll of Honour
  • 1993: International Union of Architects (IUA) Award
  • 1993: Sir Robert Matthew Prize for Improvement of Human Settlements
  • 1994: People of the Year Award
  • 1995: Awarded Doctorate from the University of Central England
  • 1998: Awarded Doctorate from Sri Venkateshwara University
  • 2001: Coinpar MR Kurup Endowment Award
  • 2003: Basheer Puraskaram
  • 2003: D.Litt from the Kerala University
  • 2005: Kerala Government Certificate of Appreciation
  • 2006: L-Ramp Award of Excellence
  • 2006: Nominated from the Pritzker Prize

Mrs Nalini Nayak`s residence,(A  Social Worker), Ulloor, Trivandrum (1971)


  • Meeting place.
  • working place (training).
  • Open spaces.
  • Classroom & dormitories.


  • External Views: Generous sprawling ground floor with three floor staking of pentagon
  • The main house is formed by a simple three-floor stacking of the pentagon on nine-inch-thick brick walls
  • internally each floor divides into the bedroom, bath and landing
  • The additional segment on the ground, forming the living/dining and kitchen, is structured with bays of half-brick thickness, alternating wall and wall and door
  • Built furniture of bricks
  • 1st floor bedroom entrance: Common door for entry and bathroom
  • Jali walls: Sun light merging inwards.

COMPUTER CENTRE, Ulloor, Trivandrum (1971)

Challenges :

  • Solution of Computer Centre Design Problems
  • Fitting in naturally and harmoniously with the elevations of the twenty five year old institution


  • Using principle of lattice wall planning, breezeways and built of natural brick and stone keeping in consideration the electronic sophistication
  • He proposed a double walled building with an outer surface of intersecting circles of brick jalis
  • Internal shell fulfilled the constraints and controls necessary for a computer laboratory.
  • Space between the two walls accommodated the secondary requirements for offices and storage areas.
  • Two storeyed outer wall is stiffened by a series of intersecting circles,


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