Laurie Baker isn't a famous architect. When I went to India on a summer fellowship to seek out his buildings, not a single one of my American colleagues knew of his work. You may not know his name, and his buildings aren't widely published, but he was the kind of architect that the world needs: a regional architect deeply committed to the place where he built his practice and his life; an architect who was both a thinker and a builder, who worked alongside local craftsmen to develop buildings that were carefully assembled and considered; an architect with a deep understanding of climate and site, who used natural ventilation to produce buildings in harmony with the rhythms of their natural environment. I journeyed around Kerala, at the southernmost tip of India, on buses and boats and trains to find a handful of the hundreds of buildings he designed. I originally set out on my mission in order to learn about natural ventilation in tropical climates, but I found much more-- formally audacious buildings, strange and wonderful patterns, and a joyful, deeply local kind of architecture.
If you're interested in learning more about Laurie Baker, particularly regarding his use of natural ventilation, drop us a line.
This research project was generously funded by the Harvard University South Asia Institute.