Britisher Laurie Baker, who made India his home after meeting Mahatma Gandhi at Mumbai’s Birla Bhawan in 1945, is known as the master creator of “symphonies in brick”, a series of buildings he designed and constructed in Kerala. His 33-year-old grandson Vineet Radhakrishnan, who lives in Bengaluru, has just made a documentary film on Baker, which sheds light on his remarkable life.
“As time passes, the relevance of something or someone diminishes. I thought his ideas of respecting the environment, conserving scarce resources, energy efficiency, rediscovering pride in our cultural heritage and the idea that architecture and we as a people do not exist in a social vacuum are more relevant today than ever before,” says Vineet, the master architect’s grandson who made the 107-minute long documentary, Uncommon Sense: The Life and Architecture of Laurie Baker.
Filmed over three-and-a-half years, the film examines Baker’s pioneering, socially and environmentally relevant building philosophies, while making use of ‘radical and innovative ideas’ that redefined the role that the architect and his architecture chose to play in society. Baker died on April 1, 2007, at the age of 90.
Delhi-based architect Gautam Bhatia, who authored Laurie Baker: Life, Work and Writings, says in the documentary that Baker’s “engineering background helped him use ordinary material in extraordinary ways”.
Ever open to experimentation, Baker was always coming up with something new in each of his designs. Age did not deter him from climbing a scaffold or two to show workers how bricks needed to be lined up to achieve the design he had visualised. “I wanted to make a movie as it translated well as a contemporary and engaging medium to tell Baker’s multi-layered story and convey the visual elements of his work to a large young global audience,” says Vineet.
The documentary showcases how the ace architect incorporated Gandhian ideals into his structures, combining aesthetic appeal with comfort and cost-effectiveness. Baker designed over 1,500 constructions, including houses for the Thiruvananthapuram Archbishop, Muttom Tourist Resort, Loyola Buildings at Sreekaryam, Centre for Development Studies at Ulloor, St. John’s Cathedral Thiruvalla, Nalanda State Institute of Languages, Chitralekha Film Studio, Mary Roy’s Pallikoodam in Kottayam, Poonthura Fishing Village, Indian Coffee House in Thiruvananthapuram and Chengalchoola Slum Dwelling Units.
“He was a thorough professional, so committed to his work that he never had any worries over Intellectual Property Rights. Anyone could use his creations. I have never seen this generous streak in anybody else,” says Kerala Chief Secretary
S M Vijayanand about Baker. To know of film screening schedules and purchase options, visit lauriebaker.net.