Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Laurie Baker's Mud

Laurie Baker's MudLaurie Baker needs no introduction. The master Indian architect is well known for his design simplicity and harmony with nature. I have always wanted to live in a house designed by him. His designs are like a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stifling jungle of concrete matchbox houses. I remember Laurie Baker from my school days in Thiruvanthapuram, India. He was my neighbor for a little while. I remember him taking his regular evening walks. Smiling at us kids playing street cricket. We would stop our game and intently watch this very tall English man pass us by.

He has written several books. They are published by Center for Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD). His books are very much like his designs, simple, sensible and elegant. First in the series, is this book titled "Laurie Baker's Mud".

[N]ational census will show you that numerically, there are more houses in India made of mud than of any other material. So why have we stopped using it? Actually, we have not stopped using it.Many rural families and many of our poorer people still build with mud-but official or Government housing schemes rarely use it and our growing 'Middle Class' also rarely uses it.

[W]e seem now to be much more class conscious and mud is connected in peoples minds with "the poor", with "Poverty", with cowsheds and pigsties, with Rural EWS Schemes and so on. Who will marry my daughter if I live in a mud house ?

So I wanted to show that mud may be old fashioned. (that to me is a plus point - it has been tested and tried over thousands of years whereas concrete has been in circulation for less than a hundred years), but it could be successfully used even for the best houses, and indeed, if all of us are to go into the 21st century with a roof over our 700-800-900 million heads we will only be able to do it if we put mud back into its rightful status. So this book is to see how we can go about it.

Laurie Baker's Mud

Laurie Baker certainly knows his mud. He explains how mud can be used effectively to build elegant houses. His explanations are simple and are often accompanied by sketches. Provides scientific explanations where needed. Before you know it you are at the last page.

One of the wonderful and endearing things about mud is that there is a vast wide range of muds and every single one has its own individual characteristics. All of it is God made and not machine made. So it is not standardized, and it is almost limitless is quantity. Therefore to many, especially to the engineering world, it is maddening rather endearing because you have to get to know your own mud and how to handle it. all ladies have beautiful eyes and bewitching hair and shapely lips but ideally you have to learn to live with, love, cherish and understand your own particular woman.

Treat your mud as you should treat your wife and you will have a wonderful house for life!

Class consciousness makes us shortsighted many a times. In Kerala, sand mining the river beds to build our monstrous socially acceptable concrete houses are drying our rivers dead. We build our concrete houses and end up buying energy hogging air conditioners to cool these concrete ovens we call houses.

Isn't it high time we strengthened our basics? Harmony with nature and building with locally available and sustainable material. Mud certainly can be part of that equation.


Sudhi said...

nice article....

Sasi Kumar said...

interesting reading

Riot said...

Thanks Sudhi. Thanks Sasi!

blue dot green said...

Laurie Baker is an Architect, who has silently tried to bring about a revolution in environmentally and financially sustainable planning development and design. Its very disappointing that India has not embraced his methodology, even after all these years! The tragedy in Latur, and its subsequent reconstruction, is probably the best example of, how we have managed to ignore his efforts to bring 'low cost' traditional, but innovative contruction methods and materials to the masses!

Unknown said...

well .. creating so called environmentally acceptable households for a billion people simply out of brick would cause top soil depletion affecting crop yield. But yes , alternative technologies especially non propreitary onesx need to be worked at . ( personally though i think the I.S code 456 needs reworking too , the cement consumption dictates of that volume are monstrously high , even for low supervision construction activities)

Anonymous said...

Hi, do you folks know of any Indian architect's following Laurie's style? Thanks!

Riot said...

I believe architects associated with COSTFORD are following Laurie Baker's style

harsh said...

I agree with blue dot green's sentiments. I dont understand why we choose to ignore the work of Baker which is practical implementable and has been proven to produce results.

People seem to forget in all this talk of low-cost, keep aside all cost-reduction, green architecture blah blah Baker is a great architect. Period. His use of space and light and innovative use of land and resources and the fact that his buildings are (to me atl east) far more aesthetically pleasing and interesting than the monotonous square blocks that the supposed architects build today in the name of "moderness"... I know I'm ranting but its frustrating to see people try a blind eye to things that really matter.

PS: Check out photos of his buildings here and tell me they are not beautiful

sanjayfrnz said...

nice article i m student in jaipur raj doing dissertation on laurie bakers low cost tech. pls help me about collecting all his tech.. and design princiles ... thanks
mail me on:

Parag said...

Laurie Baker's sustainable architecture was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi when he first visited India in 1944. Since then, it was no looking back for him. His techniques in construction industry was a marvel. More than 90% of his architecture's are without the use use plasters and cement.
Laurie baker architecture

Unknown said...

hi harsh,
I can't agree with you more. People are trying to project him as the father of low cost housing and his works as examples of affordable housing for the masses.Ofcourse i agree to it but the essence of a baker house is in its beauty and simplicity. I personally feel that the place where you live makes a difference in your life.