The Horse Rider's Journal

The Bawa Effect


When The Horse Rider’s Journal’s Senior Art Director Sandra Greve travelled to Sri Lanka with her family, they discovered the world and houses of legendary architect Geoffrey Bawa.

Photography SANDRA GREVE & THAMES&HUDSON / The Horse Rider’s Journal No.10

As the Family pulled up in a tuk-tuk on a quiet dead-end street in the busy Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, they already knew what they were looking for: The house of renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa. And as faith would have it, as they admired the house from the outside, the manager of the house stuck her head out and offered them a private tour.
“We walked straight into the garage of the townhouse, and immediately you felt the spirit of Geoffrey”, Sandra says, “The house was fantastically idyllic with raw wood and very modern. The colour scheme was changing between white walls and the darkest of wood, and his way of mixing nature and architecture is quite amazing”.


Geoffrey Bawa was born in 1919 into a middle-class family in Ceylon, later known as Sri Lanka. The surroundings, which he grew up in very much affected, the way he would consider the environment and nature in his work, where his profound respect for architectural culture and local traditions was evident.


Bawa’s early school years were spent at The Royal College in Colombo between 1924 and 1936. Later, he attended Cambridge where he studied English and after that went to Law school in London, becoming a lawyer in accordance to his mother’s wishes. It was not until the age of 38, that Bawa devoted himself to his true calling as an architect after graduating from Architectural Association School in London. Bawa returned to Sri Lanka in 1957, joining the firm of Edward Reid and Begg. His first years as an architect was very much influenced by his close partner, the Danish architect Ulrich Plesner, and the first town houses they designed had clear references to Scandinavia.


Bawa developed into one of the most influential architects in Asia. He always worked with a huge team, carefully selected to compliment his own skills. He went on to design everything from hotels, to schools to government buildings. He surrounded himself with great artists such as Ena de Silva, Donald Friend, and Pablo Picasso, who kept him open-minded and creative, and some of whom he also built houses for. His own town house called No. 11 still exists and is available for tours, as well as a very lush one-room bed and breakfast, for those who are curious about this fascinating man or just want some Colombo luxury. •