In 1960, when Ena de Silva and her husband Osmund have been casting about for an architect to construct their household house on a small plot they’d simply purchased in Colombo, Sri Lanka, her buddy, the landscaper Bevis Bawa, instructed his youthful brother, Geoffrey, who had simply began practising. De Silva, a bona fide aristocrat from Kandy in central Sri Lanka, hesitated. She’d seen the architect round city in his Rolls-Royce, his blond tresses and silk scarf fluttering within the wind, and had been decidedly unimpressed. Dilettante, she famously thought.
To her shock, she and Bawa hit it off, and the pair turned lifelong pals and collaborators. A famend batik artist, de Silva went on to work on a lot of Bawa’s landmark initiatives, together with the Lighthouse and Kandalama accommodations. However it’s the house Bawa and his companion, Ulrik Plesner, designed for de Silva at 5 Alfred Place – then a quiet space with bungalows and cinnamon gardens – that set the bedrock of their relationship.
Ena de Silva and Geoffrey Bawa: a synergetic shopper and architect relationship
De Silva wished a home with conventional Kandyan options: excessive partitions enclosing open-sided rooms, inner courtyards and loggias. And no glass or home windows. In later years, Bawa remembered de Silva as wanting simply ‘brick partitions and a roof’, the antithesis of his designs on the time, which have been basically tropical takes on Le Corbusier’s easy silhouettes.
The Ena de Silva Home offered Bawa and Plesner with the chance to create one thing new, one thing indelibly of its place and time. Eschewing metal and concrete (costly and exhausting to return by in Nineteen Sixties Ceylon) in favour of native supplies reminiscent of deep-red terracotta roof tiles, plastered brick partitions and cobbles, the architects turned the angle of the home inwards, lining all of the rooms, together with the upstairs bedrooms and the downstairs workers quarters and visitor room, alongside a squarish perimeter of broad colonnaded loggias. Their deep overhanging eaves offered shelter from the solar and rain, whereas permitting the rooms to open into the central rock backyard and courtyard.
Although the home sat on a small 750 sq m plot, the expertise was of a a lot bigger area with interlocking inner pavilions, the spatial phantasm aided by bay home windows with diagonal timber lattices. Strategically positioned openings offered pure air flow and subtle pure mild. On this matrix, there was no sense of exterior or inner area. All the things flowed into one another.
Within the canon of Bawa and Plesner’s work, the Ena de Silva Home looms giant. It might have been based mostly on Kandyan types with a contact of Dutch colonial manor home and Roman atrium thrown in, but six a long time later it nonetheless feels remarkably trendy. Channa Daswatte, chair of the Geoffrey Bawa and Lunuganga Trusts, goes as far as to explain the home as ‘dazzlingly up to date’.
Afdhel Aziz, director of The Genius of the Place, a documentary on Bawa, remembers the primary time he visited the home. ‘I realised I’d spent a whole lot of time in homes that had taken on so most of the concepts Bawa first introduced forth on this home – the courtyards, the sleek blurring between the within and out of doors. So, to witness the place these concepts got here from, the birthplace of the DNA that went on to affect so many different areas I had hung out in, was very particular.’
For Daswatte, the home was the primary actually trendy South Asian home, and influenced generations of native architects grappling with their very own identification: ‘It represents very clearly the second that Bawa modifications from his purely Western modernist inclination to a extra inclusive, domestically related modernism.’
Bawa himself beloved the home a lot that when de Silva moved out within the mid-Nineteen Seventies to return to Matale, he moved a part of his workplace right here to work on the designs for Ceylon’s new parliament home. Years later, the Belgian painter Saskia Pintelon, who rented de Silva’s home for 22 years, remembers Bawa dropping by, even after he had suffered the devastating stroke that ultimately led to his demise in 2003. ‘He got here along with his nurse to take a look at the work and the home, and to see who was there. It was one in all his favorite homes,’ she says.
When Pintelon and her household moved out, de Silva discovered herself unable to signal one other tenant. The realm had develop into jammed with noisy visitors, whereas an enormous hospital now loomed over the home. She discovered no consumers, besides the hospital, which wished to show the property into a carpark. Within the public outcry that adopted, Bawa’s trustees had the genius concept of dismantling and relocating your complete home, Abu Simbel-like, to Lunuganga, Bawa’s fabled 12-acre nation residence in Bentota, on Sri Lanka’s southern coast.
With the assistance of Bawa alumnus Amila de Mel and conservation specialist Nilan Cooray, the home was disassembled over six months in 2009. Each rock, tile, beam and roof shingle was mapped out and numbered, then transported to Lunuganga, the place it was reassembled in a quiet nook of the property between 2013 and 2017. ‘The primary problem was reconstructing the home’s shell,’ de Mel says. ‘We didn’t know if all of the elements have been going to suit – the unique surfaces weren’t straight
as this was, actually, a hand-crafted home.’
The challenge is outstanding on a number of fronts, not least as a result of the home is oriented in direction of the south because it initially was in Colombo. And save for the painted numbers on the constructing’s tiles and stones, even Bawa and Pinsler would have been hard-pressed to inform they have been not in Colombo, so exact are the interval furnishings and so good was the meticulous care taken by the staff of native contractors.
In late 2020, in a savvy transfer that balances upkeep funding with a model consciousness that faucets straight into the rising curiosity in Bawa’s works, his trustees introduced within the Teardrop lodge group to handle Lunuganga. Today, when the Ena de Silva Home isn’t occupied by paying visitors, it’s a honeypot for day-tripping architects. ‘It stays effortlessly cool,’ says Aziz. ‘I like the way in which the standard of the sunshine modifications all through the day. It’s like a canvas, consistently reflecting the sky above.’
A model of this text seems within the March 2024 Type Difficulty of Wallpaper*out there in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple Information +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* in the present day.