The Centre for Development Studies in Kerala is one of the earliest projects of Laurie Baker. Established in 1970, the research institute gets its funds from The Government of Kerala and The Indian Council of Social Science Research. Under the mentorship of economist Prof. K.N Raj, CDS continues to be the leading social science research institute in the country.
The Centre for Development Studies Location
Located in a densely forested area in the outskirts of Trivandrum, this 10-acre campus envisions unique architectural techniques through cost-effective construction. The Gandhian ideology for which he is known is evident through the organic synchronicity of architecture and nature.
The campus constitutes an administrative block, library, computer center, auditorium, cafeteria, hostels, guest houses, and residential units. Also, the administration block is the primary focal point from the entrance that branches towards other blocks. Therefore the circular tower that stands behind the administrative block is the main library on the campus. The six-storied library built with a perforated brick lattice framework is a characteristic feature of the project. The auditorium has an intimate ambiance with alternating curved walls guarding the entrance. The hostel blocks lie in the outer edge of the site’s scope that is unique in their design. The façade of the women’s hostel has an interesting waveform with similar perforated brickwork. The men’s hostel hides amidst the vegetation with a more linear form.
The architecture of The Center for Development Studies
The campus splits into multiple blocks arranged in harmony with the contours of the site. The brick façade and the organic form resembles the color tone of the red topography on which it stands. The preservation of the existing vegetation is a crucial aspect of the design. Thus, the building molds and wounds itself around the trees on site. The campus blend with the site so perfectly that the structure seems to emerge from the soil. Also, the consciously laid out pathways with proper signage help dissect the various zones of the campus. The curved ramps and the steps enhancing the walkability on the sloped site contribute to its organic design.
The irregularity in the arrangement of various blocks also reduces the cost of construction. A rigid rectangular plot restricts the structure’s fluidity, thus not experimenting with the lesser plot areas. A curved outer wall encloses a smaller site area than linear edifices, thus significantly impacting its cost.
Sloping roofs come in various shapes and sizes. Thus, experimenting on them will help deduce the right form according to its cost and climatic requirement.
The location on the site also determines the cost of construction. For instance, building on the edge of the sloped site requires a retaining wall that adds to the construction cost. Thus, finding an ideal location can help reduce the cost. Recycling and reusing poor-quality stones results in strong stone blocks by compressing broken pieces in a metal or wooden box.
Laurie Baker believed that every structure on a site need not be similar in its form. As a result, the building must fit its topographical requirements, which will naturally improve its aesthetic composition. Enhancing the life of the community using the space is more beneficial for the cost and nature.
Brickwork and Jalis at The centre for Development Studies
Jali walls are synonymous with Laurie Baker. It is one of the best alternatives to glass windows that could passively ventilate a space. The placement of openings and perforations can significantly impact the indoor climate of the place. Jali walls also better security features and cannot be easily broken compared to glass. The jali framework minimizes the need for air conditioning systems that are costly and hazardous to the environment.
Rat-trap bond is a common feature of brickwork in most of Laurie Baker’s works, saving up to 25% of brick mortar. Such a bonding requires lesser bricks while providing a double wall from its arrangement that can easily accommodate electrical conduits. However, smaller blocks in the campus compound of up to three stories make use of such a technique. Moreover, the bricks used are locally available and while making use of sun-dried or adobe bricks.
The research campus takes the climate of the site under consideration. The use of natural materials is known to improve the indoor microclimate of the place. The rat-trap arrangement of bricks forms a double wall that improves thermal comfort due to its hollow nature.
The campus also makes use of plenty of courtyards and light wells facilitates cross ventilation. Tilted shades for windows help direct wind to space due to pressure differences. The arch openings used throughout the campus as a replacement for doors also create cross-ventilation, making the building cooler.
The construction techniques used by Laurie Baker were an experimentation on-site with a deeper understanding of the topography and climate. Therefore the design of the Centre for Development Studies is site-specific and cannot be replicated elsewhere. Also, in a world where architecture takes inspiration from other buildings built in its context, CDS is individualistic and an example for forthcoming structures to follow.