Laurence Wilfred “Laurie” Baker (March 2, 1917 – April 1, 2007) was an award-winning British-born Indian architect, renowned for his initiatives in cost-effective energy-efficient architecture and for his unique space utilization and a simple but beautiful aesthetic sensibility. He came to India in 1945 as a missionary aid worker and since then lived and worked in India for over 50 long years.
The Indian Coffee House, a restaurant chain owned by a workers’ cooperative offering inexpensive food, located near the state transport bus stand in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram. Combining cheekily effective form and delightful functionality, the little tower can be read as a miniaturised ‘negative’ of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York. Its dining area is a ramp twirling up around a solid central core housing the kitchen and pantries that also open directly to the ramp. Built-in brick furniture finished in shiny black cement radiates out from the ramp to the load-bearing external jali wall. The rhythm of the jali’s brick-high corbelled openings allows constant air movement and creates dramatic patterns of light. On the outside, shadows spiral up a form that is simultaneously intimate and monumental.