Laurie Baker was an “architect’s architect” and he has left his footprints on the sands of time in relation to architecture with a human face.
He can be regarded as the father of green architecture in India.
About the Author
Atul Deulgaonkar is an independent journalist and author of five books in Marathi. He has been writing extensively on environment, agriculture and development for last 25 years in leading newspapers. He is recipient of Statesman Rural Reporting Award and Prem Bhatia memorial trust award for environmental journalism.
I am happy that Shri. Atul Deulgaonkar has prepared a book on the philosophy and work of Laurie Baker. This is timely since our country is witnessing enormous growth in the construction of buildings. Laurie Baker can be regarded as the father of green architecture in India. He used building material very economically and made them both aesthetically beautiful and functionally comfortable. He was a genius in adopting the principle of harmony with nature in his design of buildings. Many buildings constructed both in Kerala and in other parts of the country including the post-earthquake buildings in Latur, serve as examples of his architectural genius. My personal contact with him was soon after the Morvi Flood Disaster in Gujarat in 1979. I was then Principal Secretary, Agriculture, Government of India and the Ministry of Agriculture was then incharge of Disaster Management and Relief. The flash floods in Morvi caused the destruction of many buildings. I requested Laurie Baker to visit Morvi and develop a plan for reconstruction of the flood ravaged city. He prepared an excellent plan combining traditional designs with functional excellence.
Laurie Baker was truly a green architect, with considerable concern for harmony with nature as well as low maintenance cost. He was an "architect's architect" and he has left his footprints on the sands of time in relation to architecture with a human face. I am happy that Shri. Atul Deulgaonkar has captured in this book the essence of Laurie Baker's philosophy in the field of architecture. I hope the book will be widely read by all concerned with protecting the environment, reducing construction and maintenance costs and above all a sense of beauty and functional efficiency. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Shri. Atul Deulgaonkar for his labour of love for nature and architecture.
We are making utmost efforts of searching peace in an empire of temporary, instant and commercial art. With unbearable, frightening speed of life we are hunting for 'vilambit swar’ that would offer solace. Each of us is striving hard for silence of space or music that could offer us tranquility and remove chaos and jarring around us. Our own space in home seems meaningless. We make all attempts of 'innovation' by changing direction of utensils and altering interiors, and yet do not get interior peace. Then too we cannot offer any meaning to space where we stay. Travelling to mountain, beach or forest offers temporary relief. In such a crucial juncture we get support of Satyajit Ray, Kumar Gandharva and Laurie Baker.
Laurie Baker (1917-2007) gave meaning to formless space. Satyajit Ray (1921-1992) made dialogue without words and took his films to the height of music and poetry. Pandit Kumar Gandharva (1924-1992) offered a new vision through world of energetic swar. These three legends have enriched India in the same period.
The art of these three has made us introvert and start self search. Their art inspires this generation too, these thinkers have enriched and showed us synthesis of tradition and modernity, human being and nature, intellect and emotion, form and content. Baker, Ray and Kumar are also architects of modern India. On this backdrop we get explanation of why the need of Baker is much more today.
My book on Baker in Marathi could cross five editions in 19 years. This author could receive 600 letters from readers.
When I go back to 1993, fifteen days after the Marathwada earthquake, Laurie Baker came to Latur. Discussions on how village planning and agriculture could be linked were held. Baker's advent for rehabilitating a village gave us a lot of moral support. And, suddenly, Baker's dismissal left us in a state of distress. Jaigopal, his disciple, with a heavy heart, used to tell us about Baker's ideas on rehabilitation. Baker's architecture has to be experienced, it cannot be described.
Jaigopal presented Baker's architectural splendour in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He talked about the many aspects of architectural ideologies, philosophy and social life. Because of him I started appreciating architecture even outside the city. This enabled me to converse with masons and bureaucrats alike. Jaigopal gave me audio and video cassettes, photographs and sketches, without which I would not have made even an inch of progress.
Dr. K.N. Raj, founder member of Trivandrum's Centre for Development Studies, Dr. I.S. Gulati - vice- chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board and Nalini Nayak of the fishermen's union gave me a lot of information on Baker's activities. Tilak Baker, Vidya Radhakrishnan (Baker's daughter) and Mrs. Baker helped me understand Baker better.
Jaigopal, Ulhas Rane, Dr. C.M. Pandit, Ravindra Govande and Jayant Vaidya are architects and scholars who helped me understand architecture.
Seeing architecture with Baker is an experience that cannot be described in words. He readily shared his sketches and cartoons with me. Kerala's COSTFORD, an institution that propagates science and technology permitted to use Baker's photographs and books.
It was architect and photographer Joginder Singh who insisted and helped in translation of my book. He gave generously photographs. Read and edited manuscript. Makarand Dambhare has captured essence and nuances of Baker architecture through his lens. His painstaking efforts has offered plenty of visuals throughout this book. He also designed the layout and cover of the book. Reputed architect and town planner Sulakshana Mahajan, eminent journalist Kumar Ketkar, my teacher Vijaykumar Sautadekar and Jaigopal went through my writings and gave their valuable comments.
Milind Paranjape's artistic vision and immense patience has enriched the quality of this book. I wish to thank my friend Satish Bhavsar for his contribution. I also wish to thank Vineet Radhakrishnan for providing his photographs and sketches by Laurie Baker.
It is because of all these people that I could take up this experiment. The exercise that follows has been possible only because of the above-mentioned people and any errors that ensue can only be attributed to me.
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