Keywords Change this

Tropical Modernism

Birth date / place

July 23rd 1919, British Ceylon, Sri Lanka

Selected Architecture

Practice / Active in Change this

Sri Lanka

Linked to Change this

Minnette de Silva

Awards Change this

  • 2001 - Aga Khan Award for Architecture Chairman's Award for his lifetime achievement.

Article last edited by Bostjan on
September 12th, 2019

Geoffrey Bawa Change this

Change thisSri Lanka
born 1919, British Ceylon
1 of 1

About Change this

Geoffrey Manning Bawa (23 July 1919 – 27 May 2003) was a Sri Lankan architect. He is the most renowned architect in Sri Lanka and was among the most influential Asian architects of his generation. He is the principal force behind what is today known globally as "Tropical Modernism".

He was born half British, and being orphaned at a very early age. He got his Law degree from London and came back to Sri Lanka to work as a lawyer, following the Bawa family tradition. He soon grew weary of being a lawyer and went on a vacation to Italy where he was utterly captivated by the Italian gardens and had to resist buying an Italian lake house. This is where tropical, Mediterranean architecture and landscaping got stuck in his head. He came back to Sri Lanka and bought a rubber plantation in the Bentota area in 1948, to make his own garden home. However, finding that he lacked in skills and technicalities, he left for London to study as an architect. In 1957, he was a qualified architect and back home. He began planning and designing his Lunuganga country home. He took serious inspiration from Italian renaissance gardens and gave it a subtle modern twist.

Geoffrey and his brother Bevis were part of a milieu of sophisticated homosexuals who were drawn to the idea of Ceylon as a place of beauty, sensuality and escape. Bawa's architecture is at one with the land: inside and outside blend seamlessly, and it is designed for the maximum pleasure of its inhabitants. He was influenced by colonial and traditional Ceylonese architecture, and the role of water in it, but rejected both the idea of regionalism and the imposition of preconceived forms onto a site.

Bawa became an Associate of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects in 1960. An ensuing close association with a coterie of like-minded artists and designers, including Ena de Silva, Barbara Sansoni and Laki Senanayake, produced a new awareness of indigenous materials and crafts, leading to a post-colonial renaissance of culture.


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