Laurie Baker - An Extraordinary Brick Builder
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, said the great artist Leonardo da Vinci, which is evidently expressed through architecture by Laurie Baker in his iconic buildings.
British born Indian architect, Lawrence Wilfred ‘Laurie’ Baker is known as “GANDHI OF ARCHITECTURE” because of his generosity, kindness, simplicity & honesty towards mankind. While everyone is fascinated by the modern architectural trend, he took his iconic move to step out of this mainstream race. He integrated the sustainable building material with good design, hence serving the purpose. He is the mastermind of “BRICKS & BONDS’’ as he focused on the extensive use of common brick in his construction to achieve aesthetics, environmental harmony, and most importantly cost-efficiency.
Why Baker’s brickwork is considered poetry?
It is his way of evoking aesthetics & emotions through his innovative brick bonds. Baker designed spaces for emotions and even for small gestures. He used every aspect of a building material, from its colour, texture, nature and its effects on the human mind. Baker who changed the dynamics of local architecture said: "No innovative artist can hope to proceed in work without having gained an understanding of the local wisdom of a place'. As such, his buildings resonate with the natural hymn.
The Genius inventions
Generally, in India we are familiar with English bond but Baker incorporated a new type of brick bonding in his buildings which is called the “Rat trap” bonding. In his manual of cost reduction, he says, this brickwork is as strong as the other bonds but uses 25% less bricks and mortar with better thermal insulation. The rat trap bond is a masonry technique, where the bricks are used in a way that creates a cavity within the wall while maintaining the same wall thickness as for a conventional brick masonry wall. This brick masonry has more character than the usual English bond. He experimented the bond over years, and he tried to replicate the jali patterns through different patterns. He even added elements like glass bottles, damaged tiles in between the gaps in jali to act as a dummy window for ventilation and thereby reducing the cost.
His other cost reduction techniques included frameless doors and windows, brick lintels, brick arches to reduce the number of bricks used. Baker used brick or other solid materials like tiles to create different patterns on the ceiling to break the monotony of the white plastered ceiling, for better insulation, promoting the usage of damaged materials, wise usage can aid in increasing the thermal comfort and last but the least budget-friendly ( Eg: House for Lt. Col. John Jacob ). The Filler slab technique he introduced has both the advantage of cost reduction and aesthetics in the ceiling. Pattern in the parapet wall greatly influences the elevation of the house. Baker introduced bricks as a cost-effective factor and instead of using cement mortar, he used lime mortar which is a greener option in low cost .
‘Hashtag’ Sustainability ; ‘Hashtag’ Laurie baker
Having spent most of his life in Kerala - India, he designed buildings according to the state’s tropical climate. His buildings are the exemplary masterpiece of minimalism in materials ; sensitive to nature and climate and maximizing the functional spaces. We now having a huge
switch towards sustainability and encouraging people to use more eco-friendly materials but Baker seems to be likely ahead for his times where the actual “sustainability” tag didn’t even exist.
Why Laurie Baker opposed facadism (commonly known as “The elevation”) in architecture? Stay tuned for our next article.
Laurie Baker | Laurie Baker works | Laurie Baker concepts | Vernacular architecture | Kali natural buildings initiative