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Deshamanya Geoffrey Bawa, FRIBA (1919–2003) is the most renowned architect in Sri Lankamarker and was among the most influential architects in southeast Asia in the last decades of the 20th century, he is the principal force behind what is today known globally as ‘tropical modernism’.

Early life

Geoffrey Bawa was born in 1919 to wealthy parents of mixed European and Ceylonese descent. He was educated at the prestigious Royal Collegemarker after which he studied English and Law at Cambridgemarker gaining a BA (English Literature Tripos) and went on to study law at Middle Templemarker, Londonmarker becoming a Barrister in 1944. Returning to Ceylon after the war he started working for a Colombo Law firm. But soon he left to travel for two years, almost settling in Italy. Only after this did he turned to architecture at the age of 38.

Career in architecture

He became apprenticed to the architectural practice of Edwards Reid and Begg in Colombo after he advanced his education in architecture by gaining a Diploma in Architecture from Architectural Association, London in 1956 and in the following year he became an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects whereupon he returned to Ceylon becoming a partner of Messrs. Edwards, Reid and Begg, Colombo in 1958. Bawa became an Associate of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects in 1960. An ensuing close association with a coterie of like-minded artists and designers, including Ena de Silva, Barbara Sansoni and Laki Senanayake, produced a new awareness of indigenous materials and crafts, leading to a post colonial renaissance of culture.

Notable Buildings

Simamalaka shrine of the Gangaramaya Temple

Private Homes

Awards and Fellowships

  • Pan Pacific Citation, Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architectsmarker (1967)
  • President, Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (1969)
  • Inaugural Gold Medal at the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (1982)
  • Heritage Award of Recognition, for “Outstanding Architectural Design in the Tradition of Local Vernacular Architecture”, for the new Parliamentary Complex at Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte from the Pacific Area Travel Association. (1983)
  • Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects
  • Elected Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architectsmarker (1983)
  • Conferred title of Vidya Jothi (Light of Science) in the Inaugural Honours List of the President of Sri Lanka (1985)
  • Teaching Fellowship at the Aga Khan Programme for Architecture, at MITmarker, Boston , USA (1986)
  • Conferred title Deshamanya (Pride of the Nation) in the Honours List of the President Sri Lanka (1993)
  • The Grate Master's Award 1996 incorporating South Asian Architecture Award (1996)
  • The Architect of the Year Award, India (1996)
  • Asian Innovations Award, Bronze Award – Architecture, Far Eastern Economic Review (1998)
  • The Chairman's Award of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in recognition of a lifetime's achievement in and contribution to the field of architecture (2001)
  • Awarded Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), University of Ruhuna ( 14 th September 2002 )


  1. Aesthetic Recollections Newindpress on Sunday
  2. Beyond vernacular kitsch? The Sunday Times Online
  3. Legacy of a master The Sunday Times Online

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