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University of Asia Pacific

Arch 533:
Environment Responsive

Topic 12:

Geoffrey Bawa &

Tropical Modernism

Genius of the Place:

Buildings & Landscapes of Geoffrey Bawa

Md. Nawrose Fatemi

Assistant Professor,
Department of Architecture
University of Asia Pacific

Presentation Summery
Geoffrey Bawa
Architectural Style of Bawa

Geoffrey Bawa & Tropical Modernism

Geoffrey Bawa

The Sri Lankan Architect Geoffrey Bawa is now regarded as having been one of the most important
and influential Asian architects of the twentieth century.
His international standing was finally confirmed in 2001 when he received the special chairmans
award in the eighth cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Geoffrey Bawa

Bawa was born in 1919 and came late to architecture,

only qualifying in 1957 at the age of thirty-eight, but he
soon established himself as the most prolific and
inventive architect of Sri Lanka, laying down a canon of
prototypes for buildings in a tropical Asian context.
Although best known for his private houses and hotels,
his portfolio also included schools and universities,
factories and offices, public buildings and social
buildings as well as the new Sri Lankan Parliament.
His architectural career spanned forty years and he died
in 2003.

Geoffrey Bawa
Prestigious awards include

Pan Pacific Citation, Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architects(1967)

Inaugural Gold Medal at the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (1982)
Heritage Award of Recognition, for Outstanding Architectural Design in the Tradition of Local Vernacular
Architecture, for the new Parliamentary Complex at Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte from the Pacific Area
Travel Association. (1983)
Vidya Jothi (Light of Science) in the Inaugural Honours List of the President of Sri Lanka (1985)
Deshamanya (Pride of the Nation) in the Honours List of the President Sri Lanka (1993)
The Great Master's Award 1996 incorporating South Asian Architecture Award (1996)
The Architect of the Year Award, India (1996)
Asian Innovations Award, Bronze Award Architecture, Far Eastern Economic Review (1998)
The Chairman's Award of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in recognition of a lifetime's achievement in
and contribution to the field of architecture (2001)
Awarded Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), University of Ruhuna (14 September 2002)

Architectural Style

Geoffrey Bawa had a passion for the

islands varying natural landscapes,
scenes that he used as the focal points
around which he created his buildings.
Bawas work is characterized by
sensitivity to site and context. He
produced sustainable architecture
long before the term was coined, and
had developed his own regional
modernist stance well in advance of
the theoreticians.

Architectural Style
The end result was a unique architectural style that
erased boundaries between the outside and inside
of living and working spaces. With skilful positioning
of the built environment to take optimum advantage of
the surrounding vistas, Bawas architecture shows
great appreciation of natural elements; the tropical
sun, ocean breeze, lush greenery and flowing water.
With these considered, Bawa makes seamless
transitions of the outside environment to beautiful
structures allowing comfortable and enhanced daily
life. Wide courtyards, shaded walkways and open
verandahs feature heavily in his design. All these
elements contributed to a unique architectural style
a legacy that will continue to influence, educate, and
develop the creative minds of generations of Sri
Lankan architects.

Architectural Style

The intense devotion he brings to composing his

architecture in an intimate relationship with nature is
witnessed by his attention to landscape and vegetation,
the crucial setting for his architecture. His sensitivity to
environment is reflected in his careful attention to the
sequencing of space, the creation of vistas, courtyards,
and walkways, the use of materials and treatment of

Architectural Style

His architecture is a subtle blend of

modernity and tradition, East and West,
formal and picturesque; he has broken down
the artificial segregation of inside and
outside, building and landscape; he has
drawn on tradition to create an architecture
that is fitting to its place, and he has also
used his vast knowledge of the modern world
to create an architecture that is of its time.

Architectural Style
Another Bawa characteristic is the transparency of his buildings; there is always a sense usually
an actual glimpse -- of what lies beyond the immediate facade, and this is related to Bawa's skill in
the manipulation of interior space, a quality dramatically exemplified in his own house in Colombo.
Among the other characteristics of Bawa's work, one undoubtedly is his emphasis on roofs, which
because of the climate have always been the essence of Sri Lankan architecture. His frequent use
of the traditional roof-tile has already been noted, and his Bentota Beach Hotel, stepped roofs at
Piliyandala and the consistent roofing style of the buildings spread over hills and valleys at his
newest project, Ruhunu University near Matara in southern Sri Lanka, are all of course related to
vernacular roofing traditions.

Although it might be thought that his buildings have had no direct impact on the lives of ordinary
people, Bawa has exerted a defining influence on the emerging architecture of independent Sri
Lanka and on successive generations of younger architects. His ideas have spread across the
island, providing a bridge between the past and the future, a mirror in which ordinary people can
obtain a clearer image of their own evolving culture.

Kandalama Hotel

The building follows the

contours of the hill outcrop
and elevated on concrete
piles allowing for surface
habitat to remain.
Open, concrete hallways
span the length of the hotel,
providing easy access to
amenities while providing
unprecedented view of the
surrounding environment.