C. Achutha Menon
C.Achutha Menon (1913-1991), one of Kerala’s early Chief Ministers, has been described as representing socialism with a human face and a human heart, a sensitive humanist avoiding dogmatic theorising. A native of Thrissur, Menon excelled in his studies, including his final degree in law. In the late 1930s, his concern for the quality of everyday life lead to becoming a political worker eventually rising to Chief Minister for an initial period of less than a year and then nearly seven years service in the 1970s.
Menon realised the importance of science and technology as tools for societal improvement and with characteristic professionalism and administrative efficiency, he initiated the following institutions: the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, the Forest Research Institute, Sri Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Science & Technology, the Kerala State Electronic Development Corporation, and the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD). These institutions, along with prior government’s effecting major land reform measures and
emphasis on basic components such as education and health care, constitute Kerala’s unique strength.
Sustainability and green building are now catchwords of the 21st century, but architect Laurie Baker (1917-2007) was living these concepts at the inception of WWII in China and eventually during his six decades in India. Baker operated more as a master builder with affinity for hands-on involvement at sites rather than an office-confined architect. He was also a talented artist and cartoonist with a ready wit and willingness to expose nonsense in the building world and, indeed, the world in general.
A testament to his success is the continued existence of COSTFORD and the thousands of Baker-inspired buildings – public and private – continuing to be built. COSTFORD’s cost-effective architecture now carries forward the philosophical and technological heritage crafted by Baker. His last project in Vilappilsala now houses the Laurie Baker Centre for Habitat Studies providing both hands-on training in the building technologies he promoted and professional training in his design and construction philosophy for architects and those interested in alternative ways to craft built environments.
Further details on Baker’s life and work are available in the Laurie Baker section of this website and –also at the Baker family website www.lauriebaker.net.
K. N. Raj
K.N. Raj (1924-2010) as teacher, researcher, and institution founder, represents one of the last of the great nation-builders of independent India. In 1947, this native of Thrissur was awarded a Ph.D. in Economics from the London School of Economics at age 23. He served as a member of Prime Minister Nehru’s Economic Advisory Council, Professor of Economics at Delhi University (establishing the Delhi School of Economics), and Vice-Chancellor.
Raj spent the last four decades of his life in Kerala. In 1970, he helped establish the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) selecting architect Laurie Baker to design and supervise the evolution of the 10-acre campus as an embodiment of cost-effective, environmentally sensitive architecture. In 1985, Raj and Baker were two of the founders of the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD) providing training in the use of alternative, cost-effective architecture blending Gandhian philosophy and principles of socialism.
T. R. Chandradutt
T.R. Chandradutt (b. 1944) is one of the original founders of COSTFORD and has been serving as a Director, since the organisation was started in 1985. Trained formally in electrical engineering, Sri. Chandradutt’s career evolved beyond teaching at the Government Polytechnic Institute into the realm of social activism. In the early 1980s, it was C. Achutha Menon and Chandradutt who envisioned what soon became the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development. It was the strength of both men’s vision and commitment to using science and technology as a tool for societal betterment and their skill in inspiring others to join that is a testament to the lasting appeal of COSTFORD’s mission. Sri. Chandradutt brings decades of experience and creativity in addressing the challenges of effecting change in society.
K.K. Subrahmanian, (1933-2009), though not an original founder of COSTFORD, was nevertheless a key figure in its development and assumed the role of Vice Chairman in 1992. A native of Thrissur, Dr. Subrahmanian achieved his doctoral degree in Economics from the University of Bombay and eventually joined the Centre for Development Studies, retiring in 1994. Besides his role as an academic engaging in a teaching and advisory capacity, Dr. Subrahmanian also served as a consultant to a variety of government and non-government entities at the state, national, and international levels. His areas of extensive research included international economics, technology transfer and development, regional economics, labour economics, and science and technology policy analysis. His high degree of professionalism and good humour were highly prized by COSTFORD as it focused on its mission of societal improvement.
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