CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF GEOFFREY BAWA

Series of events hosted by Geoffrey Bawa and Lunuganga Trusts June 2019 to July 2019

Diyabubula, a design by Laki Senanayake, 2018. Photography by Luka Alagiywanna

On 23rd of July 1919, the sphere of architecture was to be reinterpreted dynamically with the birth of Geoffrey Manning Bawa in Ceylon. Bawa studied at Royal College, Colombo, and went on to become a Barrister after reading English Literature at the University of Cambridge. However, his true passion was for architecture and design. Returning to Sri Lanka after Independence, he came across an abandoned rubber estate called  Lunuganga in a village off Bentota, along the coast between Colombo and Galle. With a dream of transforming the estate into a country home and garden, he joined the firm Edwards, Reid and Begg in Colombo in 1951, and continued to study architecture back in London at the Architectural Association until 1956. Back in Sri Lanka, Bawa developed many spaces of varying sorts across the island, including his original passion project Lunuganga, the Osmund and Ena De Silva House, Bishop’s College Colombo, Bentota Beach Hotel, Heritance Ahungalla, University of Ruhuna, the Sunethra Bandaranaike House, Heritance Kandalama, the Lighthouse Hotel in Galle and the New Sri Lankan Parliament Building in Kotte. His also completed projects in India, Indonesia, Mauritius, Fiji, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore and Indonesia. He passed away in May 2003. 

Bawa’s work is characterized by its nuanced sensitivity to the climate and context; each project stemmed directly from its particular site. During his lifetime he worked with several well-known artists including Barbara Sansoni, Laki Senanayake, Ena de Silva and influenced the practice of many of today’s prominent architects who began their careers under his tutelage, including Channa Daswatte, Cover Personality of this edition, Ismeth Raheem, Anura Rathnavibushana, Sumangala Jayatilaka and Amila de Mel. The Geoffrey Bawa Trust, formed in 1982 works with the objectives of advancement and promotion of education, knowledge and interest in the field of architecture, ecological and environmental studies and fine arts, whilst the Lunuganga Trust, formed in 1993 maintains three main properties developed by the architect: the Lunuganga Estate, the Ena de Silva House and more recently the management of the newly renovated de Saram House in Ward Place, Colombo.

Steel Corporation Offices and Housing. Oruwela, Sri Lanka |Photography by Sebastian Posingis

The year 2019 marks the centenary of Bawa’s birth. To celebrate the occasion and the legacy of the architect, Geoffrey Bawa and Lunuganga Trusts, have organized ‘Bawa 100’, a programme of events, exhibitions, talks and tours from July 2019 to July 2020. The Bawa 100 Centenary Celebration Programme, according to curator Shayari De Silva is to celebrate Bawa’s legacy and the inspiration his work continues to provide: “it’s an opportunity for us to look back at his work and continue its tradition of nurturing the arts across disciplines.” The centenary programme is designed around both broadening and deepening the Trusts’ engagement with Geoffrey Bawa’s legacy. The Trust has since 2003 organized the Annual Geoffrey Bawa Memorial Lecture and the Bawa Triennial Awards, which will be included in this special programme as well. In addition, Bawa 100 will consist of installations and exhibitions by local and international artists who have been inspired by his distinctive sensibility. As Shayari says, the programme is curated to attract the general public, academics as well as the art and architectural community; a wide range of audiences who could be inspired by Bawa’s work: “it’s one remarkable thing about Geoffrey Bawa, it’s not just architects who are interested in his work.”  The Bawa 100 centenary programme hopes to inspire and initiate work that spans geographic, generational and medium-specific divides, using the ideal contextual background of Geoffrey Bawa’s life and work.

The first event of the programme, was the exhibition ‘Decorative Arts in the Geoffrey Bawa Collection’ held at Bawa’s famed estate in Lunuganga from July 14 to 21, presenting to the public significant holdings from his private collection and certain areas of his private home. The objects showcased belonged to a wide variety beginning from his collection of volumes by Hallam, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Oscar Wilde, his collection of textiles designed by Ena de Silva and Barbara Sansoni, to a selection of glassware and silverware in the dining room of the house. The variety of the exhibits places a noteworthy socio-cultural importance on Bawa as not merely an architect but also as a collector and enthusiast of all forms of art. 

Geoffrey Bawa in Office 2, Sowden 1985

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5th August, 2019 Applied Art

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