Melissa Collison


Beyond Bawa

Geoffrey Bawa (Sri Lanka's most celebrated architect) has given a great legacy.  His work, which evolved between 1957 and 1998 and is described as "tropical modernism", was arguably the beginnings of sustainable building.

He created homes, churches, and schools (and even Colombo's Parliamentary building) that were characterised by a continuity from indoor to outdoor.  His work provided a sense of being outside while being indoors, and incorporated inner courtyards and open spaces, taking advantage of voids and negative space to enhance light and ventilation.

One of Bawa's greatest achievements was his own garden at Lunuganga, which he evolved from an abandoned rubber estate.  The project spanned some fifty years of his life, and was used as a laboratory for his ideas.  The result was a chain of outdoor rooms; a refined version of nature against the chaos of urban Sri Lanka.  

Bawa’s city buildings certainly have a serene quality to them, a home among urban congestion, an oasis of the mind far away from honking horns and clashing aromas of street vendors.  Greens and browns floating against a backdrop of black and white.  Now that's bringing the outside in.

Utilizing the talents of local craftsmen and materials such as stone, his modernist designs were a riff on traditional Sri Lankan architecture, and the colonial style.  His interpretive modern spaces paradoxically achieved an almost ancient feel - like the Gardens of Babylon. 

These photos have all been snapped by the very clever Richard Powers.