Geoffrey Bawa Awards for Excellence in Architecture

The Geoffrey Bawa Awards were conceptualised in 2007 to recognise and reward outstanding examples of contemporary Sri Lankan architecture. The Geoffrey Bawa Awards scheme is modelled on the awards scheme of the prestigious Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva, widely acknowledged as having had a significant impact on the architecture of developing countries. Deshamanya Bawa received the Aga Khan’s Special Award for a Lifetime’s Achievement in Architecture in 2001. The winner is awarded a sum of one million rupees. 

Several trailblazing architects were recipients of the Geoffrey Bawa Award during the past five cycles of its existence.
Palinda Kannangara was awarded winner of the Geoffrey Bawa Award 5th Cycle for his design of the Frame Holiday Structure at Imaduwa.

Thisara Thanapathy was adjudged winner of the Geoffrey Bawa Award 4th Cycle for his design of the Spa at Santani, Kandy.

Pradeep Kodikara was awarded winner of the Geoffrey Bawa Award 3rd Cycle for his design of the Kadju House in Tangalle.

Winner of the Geoffrey Bawa Award 2nd Cycle was Thisara Thanapathy for his creation, the Sarath Abeyratne House in Colombo 5.

Two winners shared the Geoffrey Bawa Award 1st Cycle: Lalyn Collure for his creation, The Boulder Garden Hotel, and Shyamika de Silva for her design of the Nalin Indrasena House.

5th Triennial Geoffrey Bawa awards
for Excellence in Architecture 2019/2021 

Watch the virtual awards ceremony


Palinda Kannangara
Frame Holiday Structure at Imaduwa

Honourable Mentions:

RAPA Chartered Architects
Café UFO, Ella

The Lanka Learning Centre, Parangiyamadu

Associate Professorship of Architectural Design & Timber Construction
Santhi Children Home, Rakwana

Lifetime Contribution to Architecture
in Sri Lanka:

Laki Senanayake
Dr. K. Poologasundram
Dr. Roland Silva 

Judges Overview
by Barry Bergdoll

Among an impressive array of projects from across the country, the jury’s attention was drawn to four recent buildings that combined innovative design with sustainable solutions.  In the wake of the world-wide pandemic, constructions that engage with local material and craft seem especially relevant.  The spirit of Geoffrey Bawa, who created a contemporary and resourceful architecture notably in the 1970s when the country was forced to rely on its own materials, is manifest in these designs not through formal resemblance but for a shared ethos: a conversation with the landscape, attention to climate and to culture, and a quest for creating spaces in which everyday life is meaningful and dignified. 

Palinda Kannangara’s Frame Holiday Structure at Imaduwa exemplifies those values with a design at once of astounding simplicity and of seductive elegance. The holiday residence perches above a fragile nature in a floodable landscape, offering a vision of a light occupation of the land as though humans might alight with the discretion of native birds.  An aesthetic of lightness and luminosity is created with a very simple material palette of delicate metal members, glass, and wood, much of it recycled.

Radically different is the architectural language of the three projects recognized by honorable mentions, but all are committed to the notion that the designer learns as much from a local setting, from its natural and human resources, as he or she contributes to enhancing the life of a specific place. 

Café UFO is a deliberately idiosyncratic structure, at once a highly pictorial evocation of both ancient myths – the Peacock Flying Machine of King Ravana – and of daily life in the use of woven baskets, once a frequent site in rural kitchens.  It is highly specific to the spirit of Ella, responsive at once to the many incomplete buildings along the main road and to the bohemian spirit of the town, creating a new vernacular of great originality without nostalgia.  

Honorable mentions also go to two projects devoted to providing needed services to rural communities: the Santhi Children Home at Rakwana and the Lanka Learning Center at Parangiyamadu. Both are structures of the straightforward concrete frame with brick infill, but from this simple palette a place and a community is created by the organization of spaces – sleeping rooms in one, classrooms in the other – to create a ring of occupation around a circular communal space for gathering under the open sky.  The brick is manipulated to maximize cross ventilation and to create a pattern.  Both projects were developed by NGOs, bringing design sophistication to a local population who in turn taught the designers through the contributions of their local craft know-how. 

Shortlisted Projects

We are delighted to announce the shortlisted projects for the Fifth Cycle of the Triennial Geoffrey Bawa Awards for Excellence in Architecture. Due to Covid-19, the Awards Ceremony took place virtually on 22 July 2021.

This cycle’s jury comprises Barry Bergdoll, Veranjan Kurukulasuriya, Swarna Mallawarachchi and Nadija Tambiah.

Cafe UFO
RAPA Chartered Architects

Proposed Office Building for Colombo Municipal Council
Pulasthi Wijekoon, Guruge Ruwani, & Thusara Waidyasekara

Frame Holiday Structure at Imaduwa
Palinda Kannangara Architects

Lanka Learning Centre

No. 12 Flower Road
Suresh Mudannayake  

Santhi Children Home
Associate Professorship of Architectural Design and Timber Construction

Studio Apartment for Lavan
MMGS Architects

Wild Coast Tented Lodge
Nomadic Resort


Prof. Barry Bergdoll
Barry Bergdoll is Meyer Schapiro Professor of art history in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. From 2007 to 2013 he served as Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Professor Bergdoll's broad interests center on modern architectural history, with a particular emphasis on France and Germany since 1750. His interests also include the intersections of architecture and new technologies of representations in the modern period, especially photography and film.

Archt. Veranjan Kurukulasuriya, FIA (SL)
Veranjan Kurukulasuriya is the past President of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects and Chairman of the City School of Architecture. He is a former Board Member of the Urban Development Authority and the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation & Development Corporation. He has more than 35 years of professional experience in the public sector as an architect and planner.

Nadija Tambiah
Nadija Tambiah is a law graduate from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, a Barrister at Law (Middle Temple), UK and an Attorney at Law in Sri Lanka. She heads the Legal and Company Secretarial functions of the John Keells Group. She also heads the John Keells Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of John Keells Holdings PLC. She is a Trustee of the George Keyt Foundation, Geoffrey Bawa Trust, Lunuganga Trust, a member of the Executive Committee of the Colombo Museum of Modern Art and sits on the Council of the Sri Lankan Institute of Directors.

Swarna Mallawarachchi
Swarna Mallawarachchi is an award-winning Sri Lankan actress, starred in over 65 films winning the “Best Actress award” 28 times, more than anyone in Sri Lanka, or anywhere in the world. She has won numerous life achievement awards nationally and internationally, and now sits on the panel of jurors for an impressive number of international film festivals. She was made a UNHCR Ambassador for Women’s Rights in Sri Lanka in 2004. She is the founder of Swarna Mallawarachchi Foundation (SMF).

Previous awards cycles

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