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The Hamlet-Laurie Baker


A study on evolution of landscape

The Hamlet
An architects personality is reflected
in the way he designs his own house.

The site was an awkward trapezium

of stone and bushes with a level
difference adding up to nearly 15
meters sloping towards Nalanchira
road in Trivandrum. But baker did
not disturb even a single rock or a
The Hamlet built on pprecipitously tree, so it is popularly named as
contoured site. right in the rocks.
On the half-an-acre of land purchased from the bishop, Laurie chose a spot ,
on the apex end from where the long line of hills was easily and widely
visible. The Bakers started with a single room made of wood and thatch.
The Built Spread
He first built a single room hut of
timber. It housed the library of
medical books and his study, then
more permanent structures such as
the kitchen was built of
conventional brick and tile.
The growing needs for separate live
and work necessitated expansions
along the roof line, but internally
was decided by the contours of the
The living room of The Hamlet' site. This house served them for ten
A house was built on the lower contour for the 4 nieces who moved to
Trivandrum. One more 2 roomed house was built for his son Tilak which faced
the trees adjoining the niecery.
Bakers drawings

The extension of the house

The Niecery
The incursion of structures on the site
itself is not felt. Baker has managed to
confine this building to an area that is
easily accessible & yet secluded by the
heavy foliage.

Laurie Baker used material

The niecery from other demolished
structures. Wood planks from
an old boat jetty. He even
used old bottles in another
structure, which gives a
different dimension to the
question of sustainability
before even the word was
The stair case cuts into the rock of the site, the passage way leading to the entrance
The Man Made Landscape
Over years of occupation the arid rockiness of the site was
transformed into a contoured formation of grass, shrub and
coconut plantation.

The heavily shaded areas have surfaced in patterns of stone and

lead across changing levels opening to doorways behind a curving
walls, some passages open suddenly into a forested thicket, or
upward to view across a valley of coconut palms.

The careful orchestration of contrast of concealing and revealing,

of dark and light, of opening to the landscape at the end of the
passage- enriches the movement through the building and provides
a degree of architectural complexity to the otherwise simple site.
The Entrance To The Site
The Man Made Landscape
The entrance on the road side is made of cast iron bars with
interesting ethnic patterns on it. The serpentine stairway, made of
random rubble, a bit recessed from the land throughout, is almost a
ceremonial pathway to the temple placed on the hilltop carved
into the stone.

On the higher contour, where the residence itself is present

A lowly, welcoming abode with a variety of built environments:
from a semi-closed veranda to open terraces, from a water-body to
the living area peeping towards the terrace.

The house has been effectively fragmented to follow the contours,

so the rooms rise with the land. The bits of the house come
together under the dense foliage.
The Built And The Contours
The Man Made Landscape
The view to the valley is not made common place, but is decidedly
important as it is accessed through a set of vantage points across
the frame of the building.
Though five major structures have been built, the incursion to the
site is hardly felt, the landscape had been used to confine the built
area in a way it is easily accessible and yet heavily secluded by the
heavy foliage that covers it.
The re-application of old materials suggests the continuation of the
Architectural history.
In appropriating history for his own work, he relocates the past in
the present landscape- therefore not a static preservation but an
active celebration of antiquity.
The View Over The Valley
The Vantage Points
The Vantage Points
The Variation Of Elements
Materials and textures
The materials and textures used has produced a house close to its
natural state, stone wood brick left unspoilt i.e. unconcealed.
The Hamlet itself is a museum recording for twenty years the
changing styles of his building in Kerala. The wood and fish-tile
roofs to the cement and Mangalore tiles.
Adaptation was a necessity.

The entrance
Art In The Details
The murals made out
of stone, waste
ceramics or bottles, the
numerous collages and
impressive paintings
and sketches and
cartoons and each
small architectural
detail made by Laurie
himself speak of the
grand saga of an
architect who, apart
from being a noted
technologist is also a
passionate artist.
The murals

Thus in harmony of landscape and dwelling, the master architect

built his site for over his stay in Trivandrum about (40 years) utilising
the extremely rough terrain for his dwelling, building when
necessary and maintaining the character (if not developing) of the
space with intricate passage-ways and preserving the natural
vegetation, contour and creating vistas, simplicity and compactness
are exemplified by this dwelling, with the maximum utilisation of
the site.
The journey to Bakers home is like from a concrete jungle of
Trivandrum to the freshness & shade of the suburbs, To an
architecture of the bygone.

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