• Mr. Bawa, I Presume
    Giovanna Silva

Giovanna Silva, Heritance Kandalama Hotel (Geoffrey Bawa, architect), 2018, Dambulla, Sri Lanka. Courtesy of the artist.

Geoffrey Bawa became an architect at age 38, by chance. He studied law in England, travelled to Italy, and it was only after his return to his home country of Sri Lanka that he discovered his passion for architecture while working on the Italian-inspired garden of his new house in Lunuganga. Bawa went to London, studied at the Architectural Association, and found his path, eventually becoming the top architect in Ceylon, described as the founder of Tropical Modernism. His notoriety is connected to his brother Bevis, and of a few artists and friends who became his collaborators, such as Ena de Silva and Laki Senanayake. Bawa invested his earnings in the building of his house, his best known work. He fused colonial and indigenous styles, incorporating materials (local stone and timber) and layouts (high roofs, cross-ventilation, vast overhangs) specific to the nation’s monsoon climate and storied architectural history—from the cave monasteries of the Anuradhapura period to the feudal Walauwa style of manor houses. Mr. Bawa, I Presume charts a trip Giovanna Silva took to document the existing Bawa buildings through photographs and a fictional narrative inspired by the architect’s life and the intended publication will reach a broad audience, not only architecture professionals.

Giovanna Silva lives and works in Milan. From 2005–07 she contributed to the journal Domus, and from 2007–11 she was photo editor of the journal Abitare, for whom she photographed Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid. Silva published Orantes (Quodlibet, 2011), Narratives/Relazioni. Baghdad: Green Zone, Red Zone, Babylon (Mousse Publishing, 2012), Libya: Inch by Inch, House by House, Alley by Alley (Mousse, 2013), Syria: a Travel Guide to Disappearance (Mousse, 2016), Afghanistan 0 Rh- (Mousse, 2017), 17 April 1975, a Cambodian Journey (Mousse, 2019), Good Boy 0327 (Motto Books, 2016), and Walk like an Egyptian (Motto Books, 2017). Her work Nightswimming, Discotheques from the 1960s to the Present was included in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and was then published by Bedford Press and AA London (2015). She is the founder of Humboldt Books and San Rocco magazine.