Geoffrey Bawa: It is Essential to be There

Geoffrey Bawa: It is Essential to be There is the first major exhibition which draws from the archives to look at Bawa’s practice. Organized in four thematic sections, exploring relationships between ideas, drawings, buildings and places, the exhibition explores the different ways in which images were used in Bawa’s practice. Over 120 documents from the Bawa archives, most of which have never been shown publicly previously, will be on view, including a section on unbuilt work and Bawa’s own photographs from his travels.

Geoffrey Bawa’s distinct practice as an architect began with the purchase of an abandoned rubber and cinnamon estate, which he would transform into the garden that is now Lunuganga, in 1948 – in the wake of the country’s newly gained independence from the British Empire. From this very first project, Bawa’s oeuvre is marked by architecture that seeks to understand the notion of place. In a practice so attuned to the generative aspects of place, drawings play a complex role. These works show the particularity of each project’s location and the explorations undertaken by the practice to explore site across the many layers of culture, history and environment that characterize a place beyond its position on a map.

Although Bawa’s work has been exhibited at multiple venues in the UK, USA, Australia, India, Brazil, Singapore and Germany, this is the first exhibition on Bawa’s work to be shown in Sri Lanka.  The exhibition is curated by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust’s curator Shayari de Silva, and includes new photographs and video works by Sebastian Posingis, Dominic Sansoni and Clara Kraft Isono.

The Geoffrey Bawa Trust is a non-profit, public trust that was established in 1982 by the late architect,  with the objectives of furthering the fields of Architecture, the Fine Arts and Ecological and Environmental Studies.

Project team:

Curator: Shayari de Silva

Designers: Thilini Perera and Christopher Silva

Programme Manager: Shanika Perera

Advisors: Channa Daswatte, Suhanya Raffel and Michael Snelling

Sinhala and Tamil language Editors: Sumudu Athukorala, Ahranya Kumaraguruparan

Project assistants and interns: Aneesha Mustachi, Dharinya Ganesharaja, Rajitha Perera, Lara Wijesuriya, Meghal Perera, Indeera Lokuliyana, Arundhika Weerasekera, Nilanika Goonetilleke, Alvin Van Gramberg

Collaborators: MICDA, Aluwihare Heritage Centre, Barefoot, Park Street Mews

Colour Photographs: Sebastian Posingis and Dominic Sansoni

Lunuganga and Kandalama films: Clara Kraft Isono

Geoffrey Bawa Archival film: Christoph Bon (recording) David Robson (images)

Video documentation: Kavindu Sivaraj

Accompanying publication: Lars Müller Publishers, Sean Anderson, Geoffrey Bawa (statement by the architect; reprinted), Channa Daswatte (foreword), Shayari de Silva (introductory text and editor), Jyoti Dhar, Tariq Jazeel, Meghal Perera and Shirley Surya.


Using a phrase by the late Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa as a starting point, this series of explorations looks at the interplay between drawing and building, photography and site, and architecture and archives. Following over three years of research at the Geoffrey Bawa archives, through a series of oral histories and site visits, we will take stock of our findings in the following formats, expecting of course for these conversations to continue.

An exhibition:
Geoffrey Bawa: It is Essential to be There

On view for the first time in Sri Lanka, this exhibition is the first attempt to understand Geoffrey Bawa’s practice through the archives.

A book:
Drawing from the Geoffrey Bawa Archives

Published by Lars Müller, the book expected in late 2022 is 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.

A series of public programmes:
It is Essential to be There

From December 15, 2021 – April 7, 2022 the Geoffrey Bawa Trust will host a series of tours, talks, seminars and workshops using the exhibition and website as a starting point to delve into eight thematic explorations in two week-long segment.

Supported By

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