Anoma Pieris from , is an Associate Professor in Architecture at Melbourne University, whom I have had the pleasure of acquainting over the last few years on matters to do with Architectural theory.
I have always maintained that Geoffrey Bawa is overrated, and that the propping up of Bawa as an Architect goes beyond his skill as an architect and there are other elitist socio-political reasons as to why Bawa is revered and beatified by Sri Lankan society at large, for this I have of course taken much criticism for being pompous – one shalt not criticise Bawa and live in Sri Lanka at the same time.
Anoma Pieris responds to this question and identifies why Bawa is is so overrated, and why that is so wrong, a view I am delighted to always have held.
This cultish reverence of Bawa has in many instances given Sri Lankan Architecture students very little outside Bawa to aspire to, it is important that a more diversified balance amongst Sri Lankan architectural greats is maintained.
Ok I know i am coming in rather late, but I really couldnt help but say something about Bawa and join the drama!
Bawa is a hero to many, many others have learnt to loath the now cliched glow of admiration to Bawas work, albeit the fact that he was too old to achieve what he became famous for he still did become famous and thats what matters to most.
I have seen debates about Bawa taking place in circles where he may be held in esteem. I like bawa, i used to at least, but then this fanatical following he got made me spurt mixed reactions about him. Whatever said about this man i personally would credit him for taking Sri Lankan skills and local industry to the international stage and carving a name for Sri Lanka in an arena where Sri Lanka is not that well known. Bawa’s work was great in marketing what otherwise was little known about Sri Lanka.
But what most people who are masters in industry in their own way say about Sri Lanka is that as opposed to common expectation Sri Lanka does have quality Architecture and Geoffrey Bawa had a great role to play in carving out a niche for Sri Lankan architecture to incubate and project to greater heights.
I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Murphy, the architect who designed the new British High Commission a few weeks ago.Murphy met some of us students during cocktails after his presentation. Murphy, in this building in bauddhaloka mawatha has quite successfully echoed sentiments which are very reminiscent of Bawa’s work and his design i think is unique in his own way.
Inspired by his Sri Lanka visit, Murphy developed a design which echoed Bawa’s architecture and incorporated a range of local materials. But it was also rooted in the experience of his own practice and his preoccupation with courtyards, with the interconnection of inside and outside space, with the creation of naturally tempered environments and with the articulation of richly coloured and textured surfaces on a framework of simplified modernist forms. His design was developed from a trio of basic premises: that the building should be built on a single level, that they should be disposed around a series of courtyards and that they should incorporate a section which encouraged natural stack-ventilation and introduced controlled amounts of natural top lighting.( link )
Murphy said during his lecture something that sounded like, “feel free to copy what you want, copying someone elses work and changing it to suit the conditions makes it original”. I guess he did just that, and a job well done with the high commission!