Padmasree Dr. L. W. Baker 1917-2007.
Baker graduated from Birmingham School of Architecture in 1937. Two years later he joined a voluntary ambulance unit and was sent to
After marrying Elizabeth Chandy, a doctor of medicine from Kerala, Baker moved to a remote area on the Nepal-Tibet border with his wife. They spent nearly sixteen years there helping the locals with medicare and education, and came to Kurisumala (Hill of the Cross) in Vagamon, Kerala in the early 1960s. Baker built a hospital mainly for the tribal people and a house that was an architectural marvel, on a 24 acre plot next to the Christian Ashram there.
It was at that enchanting place that I met Laurie Baker. I have stayed there with him on a few occasions. From the house, the land sloped down to a stream beside which Baker had erected a dovecote. It was fascinating to watch the scene from the house when moonlight shimmered on the flowing water with mist floating around like streamers of white smoke.
In 1965, at the initiative of my brother Dr. PKM Tharakan (Professor Emeritus,
I requested Baker to design the church for us and he readily accepted. Those days he used to take assignments only for churches. He came to Olavipe and stayed with us for three days.
Baker used to go alone to the site for the church on the shores of the
It was breathtaking to watch the model that Baker presented in a box with a window. One could visualize the completed church and the interplay of diffused light on the alter through tinted glass. And, the estimated cost was lower than our budget! We rushed to the Archbishop with the model. He seemed to like it, but the caucus around him shelved the plan. They said that it was too advanced a design for Olavipe and that they would keep the model in the museum for future reference. I had difficulty in explaining it to the architect who had put in the effort with much involvement, and for free.
I am not going into the achievements of Laurie Baker and his brilliance as a pioneering architect for low cost structures. A great deal has been already written about those.
The last I met him was at the Centre for Development Studies,
I consider it a privilege to have known Laurie Baker. May his soul rest in peace.