The great Sri Lankan designer respected nature and his work celebrated it. There’s a lot we can learn from him
Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa is the most influential name in design from our part of the world. He was born on 23 July 1919, and though he died in 2003, even today anyone working on a tropical landscape references the work he did during his practice years. From the use of the frangipani to unplanned-planned landscapes that celebrated the vernacular foliage of the tropics, Bawa disrupted south Asia’s preoccupation with colonial garden design (think, lawns and topiaries). He respected the energy and vigour of tropical plants and created a building design language that celebrated them and lived in communion with the landscape. Mumbai-based architect Robert Verrijt of Architecture Brio spent three years working with architect Channa Daswatte, Bawa’s protégé, and learned the valuable lesson of working with the environment rather than against it. Verrijt shares key takeaways from Bawa’s designs, principles that anyone, whether you live in a bungalow or a flat, can apply to their home environment.
Walls and surfaces show character: allow walls to age gracefully and nurture them. Moss, ferns and fungus are your friends and you can encourage them by applying curd.
Make an outdoor room: the best living room is the covered outdoors. Get rid of walls, windows and your AC. The ideal place to spend an afternoon is under a large roof with generous overhangs and a good fan.
Make the threshold between the inside and outside disappear: a simple way to do this would be to have a continuous flooring pattern. The chequered pattern is a common interior element, create one outdoors one with grass and concrete.
Reduce, reuse, recycle: it seems like this principle was introduced in architecture merely a decade ago; but Bawa was far ahead of his time.
Embrace white: make it the base of your colour scheme. Add accents of black or black-and-white patterns, complimented by the colours of natural materials like timber, stone and clay tiles.
You can shape nature: grow a tree, give it form and nurture it. Over many years, Bawa designed the frangipani tree that stands prominently on the front lawn of the Lunuganga gardens by adding weights to the branches to make them spread the way he wanted.
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