Jan 192 min read

Why Geoffrey Bawa is called the Father of Tropical Modernism

written by

Aishwarya Bomble

Geoffrey Manning Bawa (23 July 1919 - 27 May 2003) was the most renowned architect from Sri Lanka and was among the most influential Asian architects of his generation. He is the principal force behind what is today known globally as "Tropical Modernism".

Bawa came to architecture late, only qualifying at the age of 38 in 1957, but he soon established himself as Sri Lanka’s most prolific and inventive architect, establishing a design style for buildings in a post-independence context. His work includes hotels, houses, schools and universities, factories, offices, numerous public buildings as well as the new Sri Lankan Parliament.

Bawa’s work is characterized by sensitivity to site and context. 


Design style

  • Vernacular Touch: Use of traditional building materials and architectural elements adaptive to the local climate & context.

  • Passive Design: Including courtyards, open spaces, jali walls, multiple openings & water bodies to create a peaceful built environment.

  • Tropical Language: He incorporated the tropical touch with modernity by adding tropical building elements with minimal design language.

  • Landscaping: Highly influenced by Japanese & other Asian gardens, Bawa gave importance to the site & the existing trees.


Lunuganga (Bentota, Sri Lanka)

Year - 1998

Typology - Residential

Concept - Inspired by Asian & Colonial country homes.


Image Source - David & Bonnie 

Parliament Building (Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Sri Lanka)

Year - 1982

Typology - Government Building

Concept - Island capital.


Image Source - The Bawa100 Foundation

Kandalama Hotel (Dambulla, Sri Lanka)

Year - 1994

Typology - Hotel

Concept - Perched in a rock formation.


Image Source - Reef & Rainforest

Seema Malaka (Colombo, Sri Lanka)

Year - 1976

Typology - Temple

Concept - Inspired by the monasteries of Anuradhapura.


Image Source - The Bawa100 Foundation

Steel Corporation Office (Oruwala, Sri Lanka)

Year - 1969

Typology - Office

Concept - Inspired by a riverboat moored to the shore.


Image Source - The Bawa100 Foundation

Heritage Madurai (Madurai, India)

Year - 1998

Typology - Resort

Concept - Blend with 100 old banyan trees on site.


Image Source - Sarbjit Bahga

“Architecture cannot be totally explained but must be experienced.” by Ar. Geoffrey Bawa

Inspired enough? Join our Advance Vastu Design & Compliance Course and learn how to plan architectural spaces according to site climate and context. 

Aishwarya Bomble

Aishwarya Bomble

An architect who is always on the go to share stories of her countless journeys.