Geoffrey Bawa Trust

Image courtsey : Geoffrey Bawa Trust

Geoffrey Manning Bawa is a name reverberated for his artistic idiosyncrasies. His architectural style remains, to-date, one that’s revered and distinguished for its untainted minimalism, contemporary vernacular and geometric grace. Many stories surrounding Bawa follow his eccentric life, lifestyle, exuberant personality and most of all, his remarkable and extraordinary architectural flair. The Geoffrey Bawa Trust organizes the first major exhibition that draws from the archives to look at Bawa’s practice in ‘Geoffrey Bawa: It is Essential to be There.’ Organized in four thematic sections, exploring relationships between ideas, drawings, buildings and places, the exhibition explores the different ways in which images were used in Bawa’s practice. Over 120 documents from the Bawa archives, most of which have never been shown publicly previously, will be on view, including a section on unbuilt work and Bawa’s own photographs from his travels.

Geoffrey Bawa’s distinct practice as an architect began with the purchase of an abandoned rubber and cinnamon estate, which he would transform into the garden that is now Lunuganga, in 1948 – in the wake of the country’s newly gained independence from the British Empire. From this very first project, Bawa’s oeuvre is marked by architecture that seeks to understand the notion of place. In a practice so attuned to the generative aspects of place, drawings play a complex role. These works show the particularity of each project’s location and the explorations undertaken by the practice to explore site across the many layers of culture, history and environment that characterize a place beyond its position on a map.

Although Bawa’s work has been exhibited at multiple venues in the UK, USA, Australia, India, Brazil, Singapore and Germany, this is the first exhibition on Bawa’s work to be shown in Sri Lanka. The exhibition is curated by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust’s curator Shayari de Silva, and includes new photographs and video works by Sebastian Posingis, Dominic Sansoni and Clara Kraft Isono.

Kandalama Hotel,1991-1994. Drawn by Tim Beecher. Geoffrey Bawa Trust. © Lunuganga Trust.

ARTRA Magazine’s E55, ‘Archiving Geoffrey Bawa’s Style & Finesse’ explored the beauteous process followed by Bawa in his workings and its significance in the larger context of developing authentic narratives of designing that is outward, environmentally conducive and a celebration of the Sri Lankan essence. The cover story unravelled the lifestyle and profession of renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa; from The Gallery Café, Colombo to private houses like the Stanley de Saram House Colombo, each design while unique, retained a sense of his design philosophies and beliefs that the use of a space for those who were to use it and its beauty were inextricably linked. 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. ‘It Is Essential To Be There’ will showcase the works of Bawa from archives, unveiling work from his travels and creative pursuits. The exhibition will be showcased from the 1st of February, 2022 to the 3rd of April, 2022 at The Stables, Park Street Mews, Colombo. The exhibition in Colombo will be accompanied by a website with previews, additional content and programmes, launching December 15, 2021. 

Bentota Beach Hotel. 1967-1973. Photographed by Dr K. Poologasundram. Geoffrey Bawa Trust. © Lunuganga Trust.

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24th December, 2021 Applied Art | Architecture