Laurie Baker (1917-2007) is known as the “conscience keeper of Indian architecture” and “Gandhi of Indian architecture“. He is known to have learnt from the practices of vernacular architecture and turned the indigenous methods into the modernism.
He was famous as a builder of affordable homes for the poor. His greatest contribution was showing that cost-effective and ecologically sustainable construction does not automatically imply shoddy building and reduced creative freedom. Instead, when technologies are adopted with care and creativity, they could lead to a unique architectural expression.
He was known as the conscience keeper of Indian architecture because his method was the very opposite of the prevalent model in India which followed the British system. At a time when Indian architects were following the British way of designing and directing operations from their drawing boards as ‘consultants’ far away from the bustle of the site, Baker organized his work as a designer-builder in the manner of the traditional Indian mason. He is not known to have maintained a regular office or a battalion of assistants.
He generally sketched on wastepaper, and designed largely on site. His personal approach resulted in the cost-effectiveness design, which would have been impossible in normal professional mode.
His architecture has been associated with brick (largely exposed), landscaped courts, jaalis, traditional Indian sloping roofs. He did profess that an architect’s design responsibility is realised when the user is not just kept in mind but understood by his manner of living, within the space as well as in the regional spirit of collective growth, in the physical as well as time frames.