Tribute paid to architect Laurie Baker in Thiruvananthapuram with Pongala festival bricks | india news | Hindustan Times
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Tribute paid to architect Laurie Baker in Thiruvananthapuram with Pongala festival bricks

A group of architects erected 100 installations across the city with half-burnt clay bricks left behind by the devotees.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2018 16:26 IST
Ramesh Babu
A group of architects put up 100 installations to pay tribute to Laurie Baker in Thiruvananthapuram.
A group of architects put up 100 installations to pay tribute to Laurie Baker in Thiruvananthapuram.(Vivek R Nair/ HT Photo )

As the fire and smoke died down in make-shift hearths that dotted Thiruvananthapuram on the occasion of Attukal Devi Pongala festival, a group of architects gathered the leftover clay bricks from the fireplaces to pay tribute to legendary architect Laurie Baker.

With the bricks, dumped along the roads by women devotees after the festival that ended on Friday, the group erected 100 installations across the city to commemorate the birth centenary of Baker, known for his low-cost architecture.

This year the festival, celebrated on March 2, coincided with the architect’s 100th birth anniversary.

During the festival, women build make-shift hearths and prepare an offering to the presiding deity with a mix of rice, jaggary and ghee. Once the festival is over, many abandon the bricks used to make the hearths.

This year, according to Attukal temple authorities, 3.5 million women performed the Pongala.

The installations that came up on Saturday as part of a campaign titled ‘Beyond the bricks’ will be on display for three days. After dismantling of the installations, the bricks will be reused to build houses for the homeless on the outskirts of the city, said organisers of the programme.

“Nothing should go to waste, it is our tribute to our master. Usually after Pongala at least 30% of the bricks used to build hearths get wasted. Through 100 installations, they come back to life again,” said K B Jayakrishnan, the convenor of Thiruvananthapuram chapter of the Indian Institute of Architects.

He said the festival leaves at least one million bricks that is enough to construct at least 50 affordable houses.

One of the touching installation is called ‘The Truth.’ It depicts the sad end of tribal youth Madhu who was lynched recently by a mob for stealing food in Attappady, an impoverished tribal settlement of the state.

“The installation comprises a core and peripheral skin. While the core represents the true solid nature and the periphery represents the skin of the society. It depicts the society’s attitude towards the poor,” said Dr Manoj Kini, faculty member of the department of architecture at Trivandrum Engineering College.

“Baker believed in simplicity and his ideals and principles have become more relevant today. If we look at today’s world of sustainability challenges, climate crisis and environmental degradation, Baker appears to have been prophetic and far ahead of his times,” Kini said.

Another installation depicted a portrait of Baker with a caption: ‘His space is still void.’ Another says dissent is the way of life in the country and nobody can stifle it.

An aide of Mahathma Gandhi, the Birmingham-born Baker (1917-2007) was asked to stay back in India by his mentor.

Inspired by Mahathma’s ideals, he spent many years in Himalayan villages promoting sustainable and organic architecture. He promoted the revival of regional building practices and use of local materials, prudently using resources and energy.

In 1990 the government honoured him with Padmashree and in 1992 he was awarded the Roll of Honour by the United Nations Organisation.

In 1988 he was granted Indian citizenship, which he always used to mention as his biggest honour.

In fag end of his life, he made Thiruvananthapuram his home, where he died in 2007.