Laurie Baker passed away in Trivandrum on Sunday, April 1st and today morning I attended his funeral. The funeral services were most appropriately held at the Christ Church which is one of the oldest churches in Trivandrum which has preserved its architectural tradition without being swallowed up by modernity. My first impressions of Mr.Baker were when he started constructing the chapel and auditorium in Loyola School when I was studying in 4th or 5th class. Every afternoon I used to walk up to the area where the new structure was coming up and would watch the very energetic Baker totally involved in the construction and giving directions to labourers. The auditorium and chapel were in one building but in two separate parts. The auditorium was well lighted and never gave any problems from an acoustic angle. All this was done at a minimal cost using local materials.
The instinctive understanding of Baker's concepts as to building did influence me and I can discern it even in the very distincitve style in which I renovated my ancestral home in Pattom, Trivandrum. It was from Baker that I got the firm belief that as far as renovation of my home is concerned there is no better person to decide it than me who had lived in it for decades. Baker once wrote that whenever he constructed a house he didnt want passers by to tell that the house was built by baker and insted wanted them to tell the name of the occupant of the house. He believed that the personality of the architect should be separated from his creations which should stand on their own. It was something similar to what Anand Coomarasamy used to say.
Baker's public buildings like the Centre for Development Studies, Indian Coffee House, Lenin Balavadi as also the private homes he built for Dr.K.N. Raj, Dr. I.S. Gulati, Abu Abraham as also his own haven, "The Hamlet" are standing testimony to his vision of architecture. Here was a Britisher who made this city his home and identified himself with the needs of the common man and tried his best to respond positively to them at least in the field in which he had specialised.
Gerard da Cunha, Eugene Pandala, Benny Kuriakose all famous as architects in their own right but who do acknowledge the influence of Baker in their work were in attendance at the funeral. Tilak, Baker's son was my classmate and good friend at school and his daughter Vidya and her husband Radhakrishnan too are well known to me.