• 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 Milano. From 2005 to 2011 she contributed the journals Domus and Abitare. Her books include Desertions (A+M bookstore, 2007); Narratives/Relazioni: Baghdad, Green Zone, Red Zone, Babylon (2012); Libya: Inch by Inch, House by House, Alley by Alley (2013); Foxtrot Gate: Cyprus (2014); Syria: a Travel Guide to Disappereance (2016); Afghanistan 0Rh- (2017); 17 April 1975 (2018); Tehran (all Mousse Publishing, 2019); Good Boy 0372 (2016) and Walk like an Egyptian (2017, Motto books); Palmyrah and Niemeyer 4ever (Art Paper Editions, 2019); Mr. Bawa, I Presume (Hatje Cantz, 2020); and UN (bruno, 2020). In 2014, she participated in the Venice Architectural Biennale with the exhibition Nightswimming, Discotheques in Italy from the 1960s until now. A book about the project was published by Bedford Press (Architectural Association). She is the founder and editor of Humboldt Books. She is part of the editorial board of San Rocco magazine. She teaches at NABA Milan, IUAV Venice, and ISIA Urbino.