EDITOR’S NOTE: This text, penned by architect Giampiero Peia and accompanied by Giovanna Silva’s photos, is a tribute to the work of the Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. These words complement the project A Piece of Sky presented by the Sri Lanka pavilion in the context of the XXII Triennale di Milano, Broken Nature.
The Sri Lanka pavilion at the Triennale di Milano, built one hundred years since Bawa’s birth, could not fail to pay tribute to the Asian master of modern tropical design. Bawa’s architecture––from hotels to private villas and public institutions, and more––is so closely connected with the identity of the country and its tight relationship with the landscape, it is directly connected to the Sri Lanka pavilion and to the Broken Nature exhibition, with a particular reference to the principles of restorative design.
The figure of the master, which is slowly being abandoned in Western culture, remains an important guide role in Asia and in particular for the new generations of Sri Lanka creatives. Bawa saw no difference between vernacular, reinterpretation of tradition, and research. He did not recognize formalism, monumentalism, or modernism. He only concerned himself with an elegantly sensitive adaptation to the context, using only a few constructive elements wisely matched to the climatic conditions of the country.
Giovanna Silva, an intuitive and incisive Italian photographer, won a grant from the Dan Graham Foundation, and her photos celebrate and interpret his exquisite point of view from different angles––from the back of the house of a hotel to the shadows in a courtyard, and from a busy road in New Colombo to a detail of a piece of furniture. Time and tropical climate have transformed, sometimes for the better, his architecture.