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Geoffrey Bawa Awards: Architecture’s shining moment

Aug 3, 2016
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by Husna Inayathullah
The fourth cycle of the Geoffrey Bawa Awards for excellence in Architecture was launched by the members of the Geoffrey Bawa Trust, Suhanya Raffel and Channa Daswatte recently at the relocated and reconstructed Ena de Silva House adjoining the premises of the historic Geoffrey Bawa Gardens in Lunuganga, Bentota.
Deshamanya Geoffrey Bawa is recognised as being one of the greatest Asian architects of the twentieth century and among the most iconic Sri Lankans of his generation. With his small group of talented assistants and his circle of creative friends and collaborators, he established prototype buildings in newly independent Sri Lanka, in the second half of the last century.
During a career that spanned forty years Bawa designed about thirty hotels in several countries, of which twelve are in Sri Lanka. The Bentota Beach Hotel and Serendib hotels were the first purpose-built hotels on the island and set the standards for the rest to emulate. Both contributed immeasurably to the image of Sri Lanka that was projected to the rest of the world. Many guide books to the island nation include his buildings as “must see” places and rate his hotels among the best on the island.
Through a series of innovative private houses built during the 1960s, Bawa fused modernity with tradition.
He also built innovative schools and orphanages, office buildings and factories, religious buildings and universities, and pioneered new ways of studying, working and worshipping in an equatorial monsoon climate. He bequeathed to Sri Lankans the most potent image of their island democracy: the Parliament on an island at Kotte in 1982.
The Geoffrey Bawa Trust was set up to promote the idea that good design is important, both to the wellbeing of the people of Sri Lanka, and to the image their country projects to the rest of the world. It aims to bring awareness of good design not just to architects, but to all those involved in the built environment.
Suhanya Raffel said, “We want to make sure that Geoffrey Bawa’s legacy should be maintained and through this award scheme we want to encourage contemporary architects. This year’s award commemorates the 97th birth anniversary of the illustrious architect. Three cycles of the Awards were held in 2010/11, 2007/2008 and 2013/2014.”
Applications are now open to contenders for the fourth cycle of the Awards. Submissions must be on the prescribed forms available at the Geoffrey Bawa Trust Office from July 23, 2016 on weekdays from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. The closing date for entries is November 1, 2016.
The Awards were conceptualised in 2007 to recognise and reward outstanding examples of contemporary Sri Lankan architecture, and celebrate the winners and their work. The first three cycles proved immensely popular and generated wide interest, which prompted many talented architects to vie for the award. The Trustees are confident that this interest will generate an even larger number of entrees this year.
Channa Daswatte said that the Geoffrey Bawa awards are open to all architects working in Sri Lanka and aim to confer a special status of recognition on the winners. “We encourage submission of the broadest possible architectural designs and have no fixed criteria as to the size, type, nature or location of the structures,” he said.
“Projects built in Sri Lanka during the ten-year period between July 23, 2006 and July 23, 2016 and used and occupied for not less than nine months, are eligible for submission. Entries not placed in the previous awards cycle can also be re-submitted. In establishing the award, the Geoffrey Bawa Trust does not intend to encourage imitation of the work and style of Geoffrey Bawa but instead, seeks to promote new and dynamic methods of meeting challenges in architecture,” he said.
The winner of the fourth cycle will be announced at a gala ceremony that celebrates the winners and their work, to be held on Sunday July 23, 2017, to coincide with Geoffrey Bawa’s 98th birth anniversary. The winner will be awarded one million rupees, as in previous years.
The judges for the 2016/2017 cycle of awards will be Ward Beling (Trustee, Geoffrey Bawa and Lunuganga Trusts), Architect Mok Wei Wei (Principal Architect, W. Architects, Singapore), Architect D.H Wijewardena (Senior Vice President, Sri Lanka Institute of Architects) and Sharmini Pereira (Founder and Director of Raking Leaves, and the Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design).
Raffel said that the Geoffrey Bawa Trust was impressed by the response and quality of work submitted at the past three cycles. “The variety of projects that made the shortlist were all of consistently high quality and demonstrated a great deal of innovative thinking which would have pleased Geoffrey Bawa himself,” she said.
Several trailblazing architects were recipients of the Geoffrey Bawa award during the past three cycles of its existence. Archt. Pradeep Kodikara was adjudged winner of the Geoffrey Bawa Award 3rd Cycle – 2013/2014 for his design of the Kadju House in Tangalle. Winner of the Geoffrey Bawa Award 2nd Cycle – 2010/2011 was Archt. Thisara Thanapathy for his creation, the Sarath Abeyratne House in Colombo 5. Two winners shared the Geoffrey Bawa Award 1st Cycle – 2007/2008: Archt. Lalyn Collure for his creation, The Boulder Garden Hotel, and Archt. Shyamika de Silva for her design of the Nalin Indrasena House.
The Geoffrey Bawa Awards scheme is modelled on the awards scheme of the prestigious Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva, inaugurated by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977, widely acknowledged as having had a significant impact on the architecture of developing countries. Deshamanya Bawa received the Aga Khan’s Special Award for a Lifetime’s Achievement in Architecture in 2001.

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