Monday, 1 September 2014

COSTFORD & Laurie Baker Centre

                             Visit the Laurie Baker Centre (LBC) for lectures and tour.
Visit Self-employed Women's Association (SEWA) paper factory

We attended a lecture on low-cost construction technology outlining affordable materials and technology drawn from Laurie Baker's architectural philosophy. There are an impressive multitude of ways to save costs on construction projects if all elements of the building are considered. This includes not only the types of architectural features but also the the building process, type of materials (bricks, mortar, cement, mud, etc.) and the lifespan of materials. The Laurie Baker philosophy of architecture seems to be "use what you have."

We were lectured at the Laurie Baker Centre for Habitat Studies, a campus designed by Baker and the COSTFORD team. The main building was originally built for an Indian-Canadian homeowner:

The campus occupies the site of a former quarry, which has since been largely restored into a tropical forest habitat:

Having seen several restored quarries in North America of similar age, the rate of regeneration is impressive. The difference in the growing seasons is remarkable:

Nearby is a rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) plantation where latex is collected for refinement into rubber:

Our final stop of the day was the Self-employed Women's Association paper-making facility. Here, paper items are handcrafted from recycled cotton fibre and newspapers, mixed with dye and pressed to produce colorful paper used to make notebooks, cards and boxes. SEWA's factory is also located in a building constructed by Laurie Baker and the COSTFORD team.

December 30-31, 2010

December 30th

Visit to Centre for Development Studies campus in Trivandrum for lectures and tour

The CDS campus was designed by British architect Laurie Baker and constructed between 1973 and 2008. Baker pioneered an innovative system of architecture using local knowledge and materials and his own logic to construct low-cost and eco-sensitive buildings.

Baker's architecture is undeniably unique, but also attractive. Our first taste of his buildings was at the CDS campus, which was entirely designed by Baker and his team of architects and engineers in the organization COSTFORD.

Some examples of L.B.'s architecture:

Curved walls provide structural support with little material:

Screen-like walls enable airflow, natural cooling, and let in light while not requiring glass.

Tiles fill the space between reinforced concrete beams to save costs:

December 31st

Visit Mithraniketan for tour and lectures
Tour of Karimadom slum redevelopment by COSTFORD
Visit to Chalai Bazaar
New Year's celebrations at Sagara Resort ("COSTFORD Hotel")

Mithraniketan consists of a historic royal home and a next-door building reconstructed by COSTFORD.

Some photos of Mithraniketan:

The Karimadom Colony is a slum in Trivandrum currently undergoing redevelopment. The state government attempted smaller-scale redevelopment in the early 1990's with limited success. The new COSTFORD homes appear to be an improvement.

The Karimadom Colony:

Early 1990's redevelopment projects:

The new COSTFORD homes:


The COSTFORD Model: Eco-friendly low-cost architecture

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Our exploration of Kerala has been focused on the architecture of Laurie Baker, founder of COSTFORD. Baker developed unique design elements and construction techniques that minimize the financial cost and environmental impact of buildings.

Baker's buildings are site-specific: they reflect topographical and climatic conditions in their location.

Preservation of natural conditions (respecting topography, not disturbing groundwater, preserving existing flora)

Visual connections to exterior:

Courtyards are ubiquitous in Baker's buildings:

The engineering and construction of Baker's buildings are also eco-sensitive. Foundations, walls and roofs are often reinforced with construction-grade bamboo instead of structural steel.

Roofs: cement, which has a high financial and environmental cost to produce, is only used for reinforcement, otherwise terra cotta slabs are used as filler.

Walls: locally-sourced adobe bricks are arranged to maximize structural stability with less material:

Architectural elements of his buildings are eco-sensitive in their material and design. Baker employed materials with low embodied energy (energy used to produce and dispose of), local materials and recycled materials:

His buildings maximize energy conservation through site planning (for example, using the south Indian science of vaste shastra, the "science of building," which dictates good architectural design similar to Chinese Feng Shui). Baker's buildings also use passive cooling, alternate sources of energy and day lighting. Elements of water conservation and waste recycling are also visible.

Overall, Baker's architecture is not only practical but attractive:


Living, breathing, and dancing design for a museum :COSTFORD


This museum should evoke the cachet of dance. T. NANDAKUMAR finds out how its architecture will help to achieve that end.


The narrow road suddenly opens up to a massive gateway spanning the entrance to the Guru Gopinath Natana Gramam at Vattiyurkavu. 

The campus, spread over about one hectare of land, is situated in the middle of a quiet suburban neighbourhood, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. The State-government-sponsored institution is a centre for learning, training, and research in various Indian dance forms, particularly Kerala Natanam, the dance form composed by the late Guru Gopinath, a pioneer reformer of Kathakali.
The sprawling grounds are bare, except for a couple of exposed brick buildings and a framed concrete structure under construction. By next year however, the campus will be home to the country's first dance museum.

The proposed National Dance Museum is conceived as a centre for display, documentation, education, and research on the rich Indian dance heritage. It has been designed to depict a comprehensive picture of the evolution of dance in India and the diversity of forms, including folk, classical, and contemporary styles. The museum is also expected to promote better awareness of dance among schoolchildren.

The state-of-the-art museum complex has been designed to ensure that the natural vegetation and serene neighbourhood are not disturbed, says V.S. Pramod, secretary of the centre. The architecture reflects the distinctive Kerala style with gables and tiled roof. The museum will feature a 22,000-sq.ft display area in the form of 11 galleries. 

Each 2,000-sq.ft gallery will showcase sculptures of dancing figures in bronze, stone, terracotta, and wood, illuminated hanging displays, murals, replicas of rock paintings, and engravings depicting dance. They will feature descriptions of Indian folk and tribal dances, musical instruments, costumes and jewellery, models, photographs, paintings, and video footage. The galleries will be equipped with a multimedia touch-screen kiosk and plasma display screens.

Apart from collection, preservation and documentation of objects, the museum will have the role of a venue for education, research, and training. On the anvil are a host of activities, including school-level programmes for students and teachers, public lectures and film shows, an extension service through a mobile museum, temporary exhibitions, publications, and training sessions on dance.

Museologists, conservation experts, veteran dancers, and choreographers from across the country participated in the World Dance Forum, a content-emerging exercise organised by the centre in February to finalise the contours of the project.

“We have had to start from scratch, as a dance museum is being established for the first time in the country. The brainstorming session provided us with a range of options on design, exhibition, preservation, and allied activities,” Mr. Pramod says. 

The Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD) has been entrusted with the construction of the buildings for the museum. P.B. Sajan, Director, COSTFORD, says the buildings has been designed for maximum utilisation of natural light and ventilation. The entry and exit are provided at the same point. “We have designed the galleries to ensure that even without barricades, the visitors do not cross each other's path,” he says.

The complex will feature a sloping roof with filler slabs and tiles above. The exteriors will sport a brick finish for an earthy look. The grounds will accommodate a park with benches and seats, a garden, and a parking lot for vehicles. 

“The first phase of the project is almost over. We hope to complete the work on the museum within a year,” Mr. Pramod says. The Rs.8.24-crore project is funded by the Union Ministry of Cultural Affairs. 

The campus currently accommodates an amphitheatre, an office building, a Smrithi Mandapam (memorial to Guru Gopinath), an indoor hall for dance performance, and a research library on Kerala Natanam.
Mr. Pramod says the museum will be equipped with a state-of-the-art library with books, periodicals, videotapes, reprographic facilities, and a collection of films on dance. 

Another innovative element of the project is a gift shop stocked with figurines, note cards, books, and artefacts on dance. The museum has plans to collaborate with universities and other institutions on research projects.

Panchayat has no right to shut down plant: Mayor


 The Mayor K.Chandrika inaugurating a seminar on waste disposal organised by 'Shuchithva Mission' in Thiruvananthapuram on tuesday................Photo:C.Ratheesh kumar.. . .

Says she is unable to take decision on waste-disposal crisis

The closure of the Vilappilsala solid-waste treatment plant is an act of ‘democratic violation' on the part of the Vilappil panchayat, Mayor K. Chandrika has said. 

She was speaking after inaugurating a seminar on source-level waste management organised by the Suchitwa Mission here on Tuesday. 

Ms. Chandrika said the panchayat president had no right to shut down a plant owned and operated by another local body. “The Vilappilsala plant has been constructed using the city taxpayers' money. The Corporation has spent around Rs.35 crore on the plant in the past 11 years. The plant was unilaterally shut down by the panchayat at a time when work on the leachate treatment plant and sanitary landfill inside the plant was progressing rapidly,” Ms. Chandrika said. 

The State government should not have allowed the Vilappil panchayat to close the plant without making any alternative arrangement for waste disposal in the city, she said. “There are around 50 people working round the clock at the Vilappilsala solid-waste treatment plant, all of whom stay in quarters provided by the Corporation inside the plant. They do not have any health issues. I do not understand what health issues are faced by the people of Vilappil that our workers inside the plant do not have,” Ms. Chandrika said.

She said that as a Mayor, she was unable to take any concrete decision on dealing with the waste-disposal crisis as her hands were tied by the State government and the bureaucracy. “When I tried to rope in Costford, which is an accredited agency, to speed up the household-level ring compost project, it was objected to by the Suchitwa Mission, which maintained that the project implementing agency can be finalised only after following a tender procedure. We all know how much time it takes to complete these procedures,” Ms. Chandrika said.

Suchitwa Mission executive director George Chackacherry and director V.S. Santhosh Kumar were present.

Suchitwa Mission solid waste management director Dileep Kumar made a presentation on source-level solid-waste management. 

Vilappilsala plant can set a model, say experts :COSTFORD


The Hindu The present dumping ground at the Vilapilsala Garbage Plant.The partially constructed Unaerobic tank for the Leache Treatment Plant is also seen in the backgorund. Photo: S. Gopakumar

Stress need for its uprade and proper management

If properly managed and operated, the Vilappilsala plant can be upgraded as the best solid-waste treatment plant in the country, experts have said.

Once the leachate treatment plant and sanitary landfill inside the plant are commissioned, the Vilappilsala plant can become a model waste treatment plant, they have said..

“The windrow composting technology used in the Vilappilsala plant is undoubtedly the best available technology for processing biodegradable waste. It is an internationally accepted organic-waste-processing technology, which is also mooted by the Union Ministry of Environment,” Babu Ambat, executive director of the Centre for Environment and Development (CED), said. CED, an agency providing technical support to waste treatment plants in various States, has been operating the plant for the Thiruvananthapuram city Corporation for the past four years.