Geoffrey Bawa

Architecture influences living and vice versa. It is the fundamental element to human existence. Where we live, how we live and what inspires our lives, the ebb and flow of nature taking its course; from the first breath, first step to the last. Architects are the designers of the courses of one’s life, from where an individual begins their day to being inspired and stimulated by the work of art strategically placed to stimulate in the day-to-day. Geoffrey Manning Bawa is a name echoed throughout the years. His architectural style remains, to-date, one that’s studied and admired, distinguished and revered. Many stories surrounding Bawa follow his eccentric life, lifestyle, exuberant personality and most of all, his remarkable and extraordinary architectural flair. His passion led him to London, to the Architectural Association in 1954 to June of 1957 when he was elected a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

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Bawa arrived upon the fields of architecture through his interest in gardens from the English landscapes to the Italian Renaissance gardens. Thereafter, he went on to admire and derive inspiration from the great water gardens of the classical period to the estate gardens of the colonial period. Author and Academic David Robson in his book ‘In Search of Bawa: Master Architect of Sri Lanka’ (2017) mentions that a particular characteristic which is perceived in his creations and one he always believed in was that a building had to be conceived as part of the surrounding landscape, reaching outwards to create outdoor rooms drawing outside space in towards itself. While the concept may seem commonplace now, more than 60 years ago in Sri Lanka, the British had built introspective bungalows sealed off from what they’d perceived to be alien environment. Geoffrey also believed that a design should proceed from a clear statement of needs and evolve logically. He understood that the use of a building for those who were to use it and its beauty were inextricably connected.

These design characteristics symptomatic of Bawa’s works were particular in its sense that a building was to be lived in those needs entirely. Throughout the years, one could easily perceive these principles in his designs and constructions; from The Gallery Café, Colombo to private houses like the Stanley de Saram House, Colombo, each design while unique, retained a sense of these philosophies. Geoffrey was a prodigious supporter of the arts, and often instated works of art in each of his creations. The Lunuganga, which translates to ‘Salt River’, was initially an abandoned rubber estate in 1948 that he’d purchased; this land would then be transformed into a sprawling landscape inspired by the English and Italian gardens. The essence of Italian inspiration is portrayed by the renaissance sculptures placed in the gardens. His design beliefs are apparent across the bungalow as Lunuganga boasts of an abundance of artworks by artists Donald Friend, Laki Senenayake, Ivan Peiris to name a few.

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17th August, 2020 Applied Art | Architecture