Lawrence Wilfred Baker or popularly known in India as Laurie Baker is an England born architect who made India as his first home due to the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and also because of his own experiences in the remote Himalayas. He moved to India in 1945 and went on to live in India till 2007 when he passed away at the age of 90.
Laurie Baker was one of the earliest proponents of sustainable design and use of local materials for construction. When in India, Baker found that whatever knowledge he had acquired while he was a student of architecture was of little use as the country is faced with different types of issues to tackle and the materials /used are different from what is available in developed countries. Design had to take care of termites and yearly monsoon which was heavy and spanned over four months in a year. Laterite, cow dung, and mud are the preferred materials of construction here, especially in rural India. So, Baker had no choice but to observe and learn from the methods and practices of vernacular architecture here in India. He soon realized that indigenous architecture methods and materials were in fact the only viable means to deal with local problems. He felt that local housing problems can be solved only by using local materials. Do you know which material he suggested for low cost mass housing in India?
It was his profound belief that India’s housing problem can be solved only by using the locally available resources and mud is the material which is available in abundance locally which should be used for mass housing construction. Apart from its easy availability, other advantages of mud are that it costs less and consumes less energy. He was not in favour of building such houses using steel and concrete. He was of the opinion that even urban houses can be built by using mud and in case mud is not available it can be transported the same way one transports cement and steel.
Laurie Baker was recipient of many awards and recognitions including Padma Shri. However, it was the Indian citizenship the only honour he actively pursued in his life. He was granted Indian citizenship in 1988.