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/r--l c()flic\ Beu';L is Sri Lanka's most prolilic ancl influential arHis rvork l-lrs hacl tremenclous impact upolr

(
\-.t -ctritcct.
architcctrrre throtrghout Asia an(l is unanimorrslv acclainrecl
bv cor.rr.roisseurs r>f lrcIritccture rvorlchvide . Surprisingll , horvever,
his architccture is not u.ell linown ()utsicle thc region. and ltas not
rcccivctl thc irltcrnational xttention it clesen'es.
Ila$'a u'as born i[r 1919 in $'hat was thcn the l]ritish colonl of
(.eylrxr. His lhthcr rr'as u rvealthy and successfirl lawrycr. of Nluslim ancl English percntagc. rvhile his m<>thcr was of mixccl (icrman.
Scottish and Sinhalcsc (lescent. In l9lU l.rc wcrrt to (lanlbriclge to
rcacl Er-rglish. betirre stucly'ing l,aw in Lonckrn, rvhcrc he was callecl
to the Bar in l9-i-1. Altcr'Worlcl V'ar II he joinecl a (.olombo larv
flrm. but Irc s<>on tirecl of the legal prt>f'ession ancl in 19.1(r set ofT
on tN() 1'eurs of trar-el that took hinr througl-r thc Far East. across
thc I'nited Stutes ancl finallv to Europe. In Italv hc tovcd rvith tl-rc
iclea of settlir-rg dt>wn perrnancnth' xncl resolr.ccl to bllv a villa ove rIookir-rg Lakc Garda. Hc was norv 2ll ancl had spcnt one-thir(l of
his lit-e awav from Ccllon. Not onlv hacl he beconrc nrorc ancl morc
Europeun ir1 outl()ok, but l.ris ties to (.er.lon ncrc lrlso u-eakening;
both his parcnts u'cre clercl ancl lre harl tlisposccl of the last of ltis
(lolombo propert\'. Thc plan to buv an ltalien r-illa caure to nothing. hou'cver. and in 19.ifl he returnccl to (.cr krn s'here hc bought
an aband<lnetl nrbber estate xt Lunugrngx. ( )n thc \outh-\\'est coast
between (,ol<lmbo ancl Gltllc. His rlrcanr \\:r\ t() crcatc lln Italian
garden fiou a tropical rvilclerness. httt Itr .',, rrt i ru11q1 11.,',, his icleas
werc conll)romisecl b1' l;tck 0f tcchrtie ,ll k:l, r$ Icrlsc.
In 1951 lrc *'as al)prcnticc(l t,,ll IJ lir:r:. thc solc sun'iving
partllcr of tl.tc Col<lmbo archit((tLr:.i. i':.,.:r!r Etl$ltrds. Rcid anrl
Ilegg. Vrhcn I{eid cliccl surlclcrtlr .: rc.,:..,:t: ll.r\\;r rctllrne(l to England ancl. afier spcr.ttlir.tg. -r \1.::..' \ .. -"-: -'lL (nr()llcd xs a stu:'.l,rr'r \\'llere he is re
clent at the Arcl.titccttrr:il \..,

the break signalled a fresh round of creative activity and he began to work from his home in Bagatalle Road. demonstrating that an outdoor life is viable on a tight urban plot. a sense ofprofessionalism and a curiosity about Sri Lanka's ruilding traditions. In 1998 Bawa was tragically struck down by a massive stroke that left him paralysed and unable to speak. when he was invited by PresidentJayawardene to design Sri lanka's new Parliament . The two formed a close friendship and a symbiotic ivorking relationship that lasted until Plesner quit the practice n 1967 :() return to Europe and Bawa was joined by the engineer K Poologasundaram. Bawa finally qualified as an architect in 1957 at the age of 38 :nd returned to Ceylon to take over what was left of Reid's prac:ice. Nearly 40 years separate theJayawardene House from the Ena de Silva House. . have continued to work on the projects he initiated before his illness . with a small group of young architects. Reid and Begg. the designer Barrrra Sansoni and the artist Laki Senanayake. arranged with careful casualness and a strong sense of theatre across a pair of rocky hills overlooking the southem ocean. One of Bawa's earliest domestic buildings. He was now 70 and it was widely assumed that he would retire to Lunuganga and contemplate his garden. combining the conveniences required by demandiflg tourists with a sense of place and continuity that has rarely bcen matched. Looking back over his career. The town house. But the Parliament building and Ruhunu had left Bawa exhausted and at the end ofthe l98os he withdrew from his partnership with Poologasundaram and relinquished the name Edwards. conceived as an austere jungle palace. embarked on AII three demonstrate Bawa's concem to 'consult the genius of the place in all'. governm€ntal. A small group of colleagues. A phalanx of slender columns supports a wafer-thin roof to create a minimalist pavilion facing the southem ocean and the setting sun. an outpost on the edge of the known world. and a Cloud Centre for Singapore. verandas and loggias. and a :ense of gentle monumentality. cultural. and his ambition to develop new ways of leking and building. a cool pleasure pavilion set within a sedate coconut grove on the edge of Colombo. He was joined in 1959 by Ulrik Plesner. -l-ire practice established itself as the most respected and prolific in :ri Lrnka.reating a canon ofprototypes in each ofthese areas. a cidlised garden within the larger wildemess of Sri t-anka. Colombo. cultural harmony.11 . A later book by Christoph Bon on Lunuganga served both as a personal tribute to a friend and a beauti ful photographic evocation of a garden. Abstract ref'erences to traditional Sri Iankan and South Indian architecrure were rncorporated within a Modemist framework to create a powerful image of democracy. None of these were built but each was treated as a test bed for new ideas. :iris group included the batik artist Ena de Silva. in contrast. social. At Bawa's suggestion. These proiects brought Bawa international recognition and his work was celebrated in a Mimar monograph by Brian Brace Taylor and in a London exhibition. Some of these ideas came to fruition in three hotels built in Sri l^anka in the 1990s: the Kandalama. but they are two points on a continuum. However. snaking around a rockT outcrop on the edge ofan ancient tank in the Dry Zone . continuity and progress. It also became :he springboard for a new generation ofyoung Sri Lankan architects. the I ighthouse at Galle. The Bentota Beach Hotel of 1968 was Sri Lanka's first purpose-built resort hotel. a courtyard house built in Colombo for Ena De Silva in 1961.hotels on Bali and Bintan. transforming an ancient rubber estate into a series of outdoor rooms that evoke memories of Sacro Bosco and Stourhead.an official residence for the President. rpen planning. oldest and most outspoken student of his scneration. led by Channa Daswatte. created by knocking together four tiny bungalows and adding a white entry tower that peers like a periscope across neighbouring rooftops towards the distant June 2003 Explore Sri Lanka . Lunuganga is a distant retreat. commercial and residential buildings. Together they a stream of ambitious designs . with a portfolio that included religious. was the first to fuse elements of treditional Sinhalese domestic architecture with modem concepts of . The result is a matrix of pavilions and courtyards. who remained his partner for the next 20 years. During the 1980s.membered as the tallest.with drawings being taken down the corridor from the office to Bawa's bedroom for nods of approval or rejection. and his scenographic manipulation of space. One final house. During the early l97Os a series of buildings for qovemment departments developed ideas for the workplace in a tnrpical city. and his own house in Colombo's Bagatalle Road. As well as his immediate office colleagues. two proiects hold the key to an understanding of Bawa's work: the garden at Lunuganga that he continued to fashion for almost 5O years. houses in Delhi and Ahmedabad. all ofwhose work figires prominently in his buildings. Bawa's growing prestige was recognised n 1979. and the Blue Water. a young Danish architect s'ho brought with him an appreciation of Scandinavian design and jctailing. He gathered together a group oftalented young designers and -inists w'ho shared his growing interest in Ceylon's forgotten are hitectural heritage. hiiled at the time as one of the world's first bio<limatic high-rises. derying the southem oceans from its boulder-strewn headland. designed for theJayawardene family in 1997 as a weekend retreat on the cliffs of Mirissa.rr Kotte. cducational. culminating in the State Mortgage Bank in Colombo. as well as his skill at integrating architecture and landscape. demonstrates Bawa's unflagging inventiveness. is an introspective assemblage of courfyards. a house in Bombay. the swampy site was dredged to create rn island at the centre of a vast artificial lake with the Parliament building appearing as an asymmetric composition of copper roofs Iloating above a series of terraces rising out of the water. one a distillation of the other. Bawa also designed the new Ruhuna Univer!in' near Matara. a proiect that enabled him to demonstrate his mastery of extemal space and the integration of buildings in a landscape. a hotel in Panadura .

"Create sornetbittg. and then a long stay in Europe before he retumed to Sri Lanka to look for the ideal piece of land to make his own paradise. At least J. site and available resources.ou pleasilt'e. I do ttot tbink tbis is possible as it is only tbe final built object tbat can be judged. and a building of another stair or another terrace . (such as) at KimbulaprtUa Otis grandfatber's plartation in Negombo) attd otber places. A discovered view. understood arld liked or disliked. personal thing in which one explores and puts together the various experiences and incidents of one's own life in response to given circumstances of client needs. I tltirtk u'e all buildfor ourselues. while its communities have been fractured b_v bitter political and ethnic disputes.as a different uorld. a pot placed in the middle .or"ds." It was enough that what was built or moulded managed to engage the user's mind in a pleasurable way. views and spaces.. an inJinite garden of the mind. This is moulded within its physical limits to produce a series of pleasing vistas. 12 4 June 2OO3 Explore Srl Lanka Essentially Bawa's architecture engages what is already existing a functional necessity of accommodating necessary social events in a building. However in a few rare interviews and writings he brings forth some insights into the thoughts and processes that seem to define his work.because it u." Geoffrey Bawa has always been reticent about talking about his architecture and prefers instead to build and also to encourage people to experience the built work. and he has also used his vast knowledge of the modem world to create an architecture that is of its time. The process was one of serendipitous involvement with the landscape. in the case oflunuganga.t find strong tbeoretical ideas in the uork. Sri lanka's population has almost tripled. Utimately tbe rest colnes out of -'t. He has never theorised about his work.ocean. It is a haven of peace. Sri Lanka has been subjected to strong outside influences from its Indian neighbours. although he admits that there is a theoretical content to the work. Bawa has continued this tradition.. Sri Lankan. First a slow grand tour through the Philippines and the United States. allude to tltat uioild. The essence ofthe garden predates his architectural training and nurtured his attitude to architecture without an overt theoretical iustification for anything that was done. providing a bridge befween the past and the future. In 1947 he bought a piece of land which he named Lunuganga (salt river) after the spectacular backwater that surrounds it.." Here more than anything else shows his inimitable personal approach to moulding his immediate surroundings to give pleasure to its user. You ca. he has drawn on tradition to create an architecnrre that is fitting to its place.particularly gardens. instead has left the theorising to others. The years between. Bawa participated intimatelv in the carefree existence of the inter-waryears in Europe and Sri Lanka. His ideas have spread across the island. David Robson (uly 2001) Bawa on Bawa "Hou'euer tnucb one tries to explain arcbitecture in u. Since Bawa started out on his career. East and rVest. Bawa has exerted a defining influence on the emerging architecture of independent Sri Lanka and on successive generations of younger architects. he has broken down the artificial segregation ofinside and outside. His architecture is a subtle blend of modernity and tradition. It uas maruellous sitting in tbis lorlg ueranda ajter luncb bauing endless con- in either a natural landscape of a site or uersatiotls. with an aesthetic intent which may be enjoyed by the user. Throughout its long and colourftrl histor_r'. and settled down to make of it a garden that embodied the good life he had seen and experienced. from Arab traders and from European colonists. tbat is tbe tbeoty. Bawa has always seen the practice of architecture a^s an immensell." His approach to architecture has alu'ar-s been one of direct experience and sensualiry." Such an understanding oftheory rises out ofceoffrey Bawa's long and circuitous joumey to becoming an architect at the relatively late age of37. but provides a background to an expected and anticipated life.. and you couldn't do it .ott krtoLt' tt'ltat -t'ott ttant to do. "I like buman interuention. Wlticb tuas not alierx to tbe life I led before goit'tg to England.. a mirror in which ordinary people can obtain a clearer image of their own evolving culture. "Obuiousllt tbe arcbitecture tbat otxe does contes out of tu'o tbings . Before becoming an architect.be allied to it. formal and picturesque. The natural environment is seen alrnost as if it were cla_v in a sculptor's hand.itbin tbeir capability. a possible lowering of a hill to reveal another.another sign of the hand of man.tbe need of the person and tbe htpes of nwterials at'ailable for use. Bawa 'civilises' the wildest stretch of jr-rngle. Although it might be thought that his buildings have had no direct impact on the lives of ordinary people. In those years he discovered the pleasures of life to which architecture . \'otr build u'bat lou thi?xk is an ansuer and tubiclt git'es .ourself. With simple geometric intervention. The prime concem is alrr avs for the life in the sequences ofspaces that are created. like in a landscape uhen people cottriue to mould it to tbeir moods. sometimes a mere line. and the careful placing ofan artefact.t. "Tbat's for otbers to do..orld . and it has als/ays succeeded in translating these elements into something new but inrinsicalll. not recreate tbat L. he had read English and Law at the University of Cambridge and qualified as a lawyer at 25 and gave it up after a short practice of six months. building and landscape. locked away within a busy and increasingl.ing tbemselues u. His architecture does not engage the mind to be clever. it utas not tied up to an! social structure exceptpeople eniq. If someone else carx just as easily see tbe point of tbe ubole project.v hostile cit)'. It's not a tbeory or an intellectual ansu'er. was an integral part.

particularly that of the central promenade that takes the speakers procession from outer veranda to inner vestibule through to the end of the central chamber. Tbe inter-linked spaces are backdrops to life.tbe site being all important and one sees wbateuer uision is granted to one as a building set in its surroundings . It is essential to be tbere. You ba ue to go to tlre site because tbe site is altogetber important. A major factor in defining his approach to design and the final design of a particular proiect is the site. In the Kandalama hotel 1 99-i) project he has made a strict austere building stand out against :re dramatic landscape . he main:rined throughout his working life. tbe totalitl' of appeardnce and mouement in and out of tbe buildings. T-be landscape is a mouing picture tbat otte is inside of. ''.trl. you baue to take it Tl. he colonises a landscape rv Lnserting into it a grid of columns and a sheltering roof that stands rs a filere line in it.. With tbe particular needs of tlte buildittg at tbe back of one's mind one sees tbe solution as tt totalit! . The process of design and building is seen as an attempt to get as close as possible to the original picture that has developed in tl-re mind. being released to tbe uieu'. Tbe site giues the most pouerful pltslz to a design along u'itb tbe brief. The vertical lines of the support structure and :he l-rorizontal planes of the floors completely devoid of decoration. Shelrcred and unsheltered space blends seamlessly and the room stretches 'ur into the landscape. As yolt moue tbrough a buildittg t)u dre conscious of euerytbing around you ." Even in his design for the House of Parliament at Sri Jayawardenapura (1982). After tuo bours on tbe site.tilding uould also see and feel. I can imagitrc it as a platx or a Ieeling of going tbrougb to an aeroplane.dlrtance under a tree. Space is seen as a continLrum. T'bey are about the total picture. tbe rooms are nterely about orcbesbatiltg one's mouement. Euen as u-te are sifting bere you catx imagine bout tbe place u'ill cbarxge. and is reminiscent of its historic predecessors in the royal and monastic buildings of Sri Lanka. disL't)t'erifig.tbe building seen from outside.. Tbe . the building that results is a complex asymmetric form that breaks down the bulk of this vast complex. Wbat is tbere needs to be taken into consideration. entire mountainsides are brought into focus. determining bou. the A S H de Silva house (1963) in (. Wbetber it is a big building or a small building 1ou must be inuohted u'itlt the site. For Bawa. ". Along with the other pattems of movement. a more intrinsic energy tbat Soes on u)itbirt tbe spaces drctber sbeltered or not.nd distant. In m! approacb to arcbitecture I tbink my first concent is tbe arrangement of space. the building which is in essence a monument and thus seemed to provide the agenda for a strong form.particu' i.\ot so mucb rootns in rooms. I haue alutays been against making a shape and tlcett hal)ing to be re' stricted by it... ultimate bliss is to see and participate in the June 2OO3 Explore Sri Lanka.finalform comesfrom doing it. It is a continuum in uhich all sides appear shnultaneously.e make.tecause tlzat really is ubat one does. It is for tbis reason tlrat the drautings u. tbe ubole picture one tries to see u. "hx eacb project one finds that one's tbinking is unconfined.nalter. which were a direct rngagement with building and site to accommodate life. whether used or unused are involved in the design.. as possible but with due consideration to how the site itself changes with the new impositions. lowering hills and draining marshes a carefully lrrdulated configuration of space that allows for a variety of c\periences.getting tbe pictare out and explaining to eueryone is difficult." This non-formal approach to design is extended to the execution on site as well. In the H()use on the Red Cliffs in Mirrissa (1997). It is txot a singular deuotion to a beautiful uieut.. moods and even social possibility has been unveiled from n hat was the wildness of a tropical iungle and rubber plantation. Witbout seeing tbe site I cannot Luork.t' itl tbe perceptiott of outside and adjacent spaces.ill cbange and tbat picture does not cbange. around it from all cliffererxt p.you batte to coilsider seeing tbrougLt it. ht sbot't.hateuer anYone using tbe br. one of his earliest projects.. Wbat I rnearl ts tlrdt u'ben . Bv can'ing out forests.13 . I can neuer imagine it as a q.tere is irtto consideration. actually u'alkilxg tbrouglr. Arrittal being drautn in.people rnoue througb space.tg tliings beyond a particular roont or space. t.you design anytbing.altbougb you may _t rtttturally see it in detail. HoLo tbis is related to tbe site and tbe needs of tbe mornent utitbin ubateuel corxstraints tbere are. One'sfeel' rttgs itt a rootn constantly alter as one moues around it .mbol." After the initial picture has been established the process of building starts by trying to make others working with him to see the picture too." From the outset all drawings contain the salient physical features of the site including important trees and boulders and directions of views. but rooms irx their corfiext and seei. Bawa imagined various sequences of movement through the complex. trees and all tbe landscape elements are included.. say that end wall tbere . it doesn't . All spaces adjacent . -llouernent is uery importatxt. past it. tbe mouement itx tbe building..llle uses the sloping site to great advantage. :ccentuate the landscape by letting it dominate and take over but with : srrong sense of the hand of man still visible in the landscape.. Wbetber it dnltoys you or pleases you. I baue a mental picture of tobat u'ill be tbere and how the site u. "l don't knout.)iltts of uieu. "Obuiouslly ifyou enjoy buildingyou can't do itfrom arx office. The -r:sons leamt from these early experiments." This attitude has meant that Bawa has always been deeply sceprical about form making for its own sake. Shown a design of an airport that had a strong form that suggested a bird and therefore flight and asked if he could do it.

and built it tDith a contractor ubo follou. At St Thomas' Preparatory School(1964) and the Bishop's College (1965) simple concrete frame structures hold wide sunshades. Most decisions are obuious in tbat ua!. enveloped in the materials and skills available to him. There is no conscious effort to build in a vemacular or regional style but is a direct response to the climate and culture ofthe place. I do not make it regional and a^s a creed. master masons and metalworkers whose collaboration Bawa enloys. Mosaic work of broken plates donated by a nearby ceramic factory cover the walls. In an early proiect Polontalawa (1964) -Baura and Ulrik Plesner.brick. Architecture is se€n as a line that defines and marks the presence of man in the landscape and then dissolves into the background to make way for life.Bawaha6 achieved a humane modem complex of buildings using available local skills and materials .telling tbem uhat to do especially uitb tbe details. wbicb I uas trained to do in a certain way and decorate in a certain uaJ4 using people wbo could. of the utmost importance. Reid and Begg of which he became a partner in 1958. In the clubhouse built for Madurai Coats in Madurai. Eacb projea is a uery pafricular response to a culture it's in particularly in respect to tbe materiak. Bawa's work links the modem period to a continuum of history and buitding traditions of the regions and places he works in. 14.. tbe resultant building automatically becomes regional. "For St Tbomas' tbere uas a possibility of using reinforced concrete.. It is not a good tbing to say. If you take tbe local materiak and tbe generalfee oftbe place into account. ). comrgated roofs and breis-soleil. Channa Daswatte (october 1998) Geoffrqt Bawa passed au'a-t' on -lla)' 2-. AnJ) otber response is bogus to me.)t)-1. Tbey are all dffirent in essence. wbicb you must bold up to tbese crafismm. is one in which form is articulated as a function of movement and experience of the context. I respond to it tbrougb tbe site and tbe materials of tbe site.ted euery gesture of our bands.discouered a spot full of boulders and ue botb said bou excellent and splendid it utould be to build a bouse bere. Wbatlrightens me is tbat regionalism is tbougbt to be a lessening of ciuilisation. So we pulled some strings and sticks. We do muclt more of tbis on the site tban uitb drawings. "If u-tbat you Luant to build can't be built by you yourse$ tben you go to a master of tbat particular trade and say: "H0LU do you do tbis?" Tben tbey will tell you and tben you haue to uork witbin tbose limitations. ". partner and friend. he uses extensively and to advantage. Dr K Poolagasundaram and a host of other architects. local stone splitting techniques and masonry skills are used to good effect along with recycled doors from old Chettinad houses." All this also implies the importance that is made to climate in the work. Design encompasses a cultural sensitiuiA. the product of this process.Sometimes quite ofien. either as grand landscape or tight urban space." The use of materials available in a locality has been of particular importance in his work tfuoughout.tajts quite obuious tbey understand utben u)e are talking about a detail on tbe site. The early buildings done through the firm of Edwards. Bawa's skill at using the resources around him has also extended to people. Understanding Bali is aery differentfrom SoutLr India. "I baue built in India. Bawa moved easily into the use of local materials available around him and the assembly of which was not conceptually dissimilar. ubicb I enjoyed doing. I just build u-tbat I am asked to build. Tbe contribution of tbe makers. Tbe trust is ako limited to one's intentions. @ . From the brilliant mind of his long time partner. Stone is tbe ruaterial of Soutb India and timber of Bali. The essence of Bawa's work. tbey do mucb better tban you expect tbem to." In other words the design is limited or extended by the knowledge and the resources of the craftsmen and technology available.s aho interaction uitb people and crafisrnen . If you go to a tropical island. .. plaster. Through this attitude to archit€cture and building. At the offices for the steel corporation (1967) he uses the potential for pre-cast concrete panels to great effect to build an airy breathing pavilion jutting out into a large pond. It is alu. The material used and the forms that the craftsmen are capable of making have in them an intrinsic respect for the climate that they I do not take regionalism are in.. in some cases than ours. like Anil ulbo u. These early experiments made use of the ideas he was exposed to at the AA. This trust is reJlected in tbe buildings. It is not! Pbilip Jobnson's hotne in Connecticut USA is as regional as a mud but in uhereuer it lies. engineers and designers. June 2OO3 Explore Sri Lanka coconut rafters and Jungle posts.building process directly on site.. from uhat I do in Sri lanka because all tbe materiak used and the metbods of construction are establisbed in tLrose countries. brougbt some chairs and sandwicbes. but it all comes from a lack of general education. shows a textbook approach to the use of concrete.as a good sculptor. At the farm school he built in Hanwella for the Good Shepherd congregation in lg$... A close look at all the buildings he has been involved in shows a great variety of attitudes to materials. Indonesia and Mauritius. At least obuious to me..tbere i. particularly tbe older carpenters and masons wbo are passionate about ubat tbq) do is equal to or more. the architecture should be a way of building that comes from the island itself and from the people themselves." From these early experiences and experiments with frame struc- tures." He considers this close interaction with the craftsmen and technical personnel directly involved in making the buildings. Materials and building techniques are seen as a consequence of avallabtltty and economy. He u'as 84 years old. ".