Saturday, May 10, 2008

Increasing Relevance of Laurie Baker

This year (2008) we find the climate behaving unusually, what with heavy rains in March that brought about much loss of crops and then unusually hot weather. People are asking, "Is this climate change?" Meteorologists say that a particular event cannot be scientifically ascribed to climate change. But the trend seems to point to increasingly warmer days and heavier rainfall. Thus, we cannot rule out the possibility that we are witnessing the effects of climate change. So how does Laurie Baker come in?

Laurie Baker has always advocated the use of energy efficient materials for building construction. The use of glass and aluminium should be minimised since these consume the maximum energy for manufacture. He has always tried to use locally available material for his buildings, and has promoted this idea so that energy utilisation for transporting materials will be minimised, thus reducing cost too. But his philosophy of life has been generally to live a simple life without imposing oneself on the environment. His houses have always blended with the environment. And they have always tried to use naturally available sunlight and wind as far as possible, instead of artificial lights and fans. Unfortunately, we failed to understand what he was saying. And we continued to construct monstrosities which totally isolated people from natural light and air. Air-conditioning has become a personal statement, and people install these machines even where people could have done without them. We are continuing to live extravagantly, expending much more resources than we can really afford to.

Naturally, we will have to face the consequences. Unfortunately, we have to face the consequences of the extravagance of others too. Wealthy people, whether in developing nations or in developed ones, appear to believe that they deserve to get whatever they can pay for. Unfortunately, they do not realise that what they are paying is actually only a small part of the cost of what they consume. The remaining part of the cost is borne by the entire humanity. And this is in the form of depleting resources, including fresh water, disappearing species and changing climate. They refuse to understand that money is not everything, that most things precious to us cannot be obtained for money.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mango Mania: Exhibition of Laurie Baker's Collages

Alliance Francais de Thiruvananthapuram is organising an exhibition of collages made by Bakerji during the last years of his life. The exhibition will be held for fourteen days from April 1, the death anniversary of the great humanist. Simultaneously, some collages can be seen also at and at The exhibition is called Mango Mania since that is what Mrs. Elizabeth Baker used to call these works. The name derives from the mango shape that Bakerji used extensively in these collages.

Laurie Baker (1917-2007), the great Gandhian green architect abhorred any sort of waste, recycling every conceivable material in his works. During the last few years of his life, Bakerji used to do collages of mind-boggling patterns in the shape of mangoes with magazine pages, newspapers, bit notices, cloth, etc. Like he had never repeated a building design or detailing, he created new and varied 'mango designs'. This body of work, fondly termed as 'mango mania' by Mrs. Baker, is a liberating experience of amazing range of combinations and permutations that teaches us how we can play around and create with discarded materials. Alliance Francais, Thiruvananthapuram, in association with Costford (Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development) is proud to present an exhibition of a selection of 'Mango Mania' [curated by Sundar & Bhattathiri] on the first death anniversary of the great architect Laurie Baker.

Here are a couple of collages to whet your appetite: