It is Essential to be There
3. February 2022
Sand Dune Scheme, Yala, Sri Lanka. Elevation drawing by Nihal Amarasinghe. (Image: Geoffrey Bawa Trust © Lunuganga Trust)
Geoffrey Bawa: It is Essential to be There is the first exhibition on the work of architect Geoffrey Bawa to be shown in his home country of Sri Lanka. More than 120 documents from the Bawa archives are now on display, with many of the drawings and other artifacts not previously shown to the public.
Geoffrey Bawa (1919–2003) is considered the most famous architect from Sri Lanka. His two most famous works are the Kandalama Hotel (now Heritance Kandalama) in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, completed in 1994, a few years before a stroke would leave him paralyzed and unable to speak but still able to work, and Lunuganga, the country estate he purchased in 1948 and transformed over the course of five decades. These projects undertaken late and early in Bawa's long career, respectively, illustrate his approach to architecture as a discipline strongly informed by circumstances of site, something articulated in the title of the exhibition, a quote from Bawa's notebooks.
Curator Shayari de Silva of the Geoffrey Bawa Trust organized the exhibition into four thematic sections that explore relationships between ideas, drawings, buildings and places, putting new photographs and video works by Sebastian Posingis, Dominic Sansoni, and Clara Kraft Isono alongside the archival drawings, photographs, and models. (A short video of the exhibition is at bottom.)
For those unable to visit the exhibition at Park Street Mews in Colombo before it closes in April, the website for It is Essential to be There has information and images, including a 30-page exhibition guide (PDF link), and later in 2022 Lars Müller Publishers will publish Drawing from the Geoffrey Bawa Archives, "a richly illustrated anthology of essays looking at the Bawa archives with texts from Channa Daswatte, Shayari de Silva, Sean Anderson, Jyoti Dhar, Tariq Jazeel, Meghal Perera, Shirley Surya and a reprinted statement by the late architect."