TBT Stop 7: Colombo

Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka and the city where Bawa practised architecture. His house, office and the paradise cafe are must visit places for the Bawa-fans, those who do the Bawa trail like a pilgrimage.

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Residence no 11 on the 33rd lane was Bawa’s residence and office at one point of time, today it serves as a museum and boutique address of guest residence. When we visited his house, Jhonty Rhodes, the cricketer and his wife were guests.

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Though small in comparison to all the luxury hotel properties Bawa built, his house located in a posh locality is a combination of three houses that Bawa bought over the years and he reworked the spaces every time. Sealed in white the interior spaces are punctuated by smaller pocket-sized courtyards and skylights to let in light into the framed spaces of the house.

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The house is home to many pieces of art work and books that make up the architect’s cultural collection. Some are done by friends, some by his colleagues, some by local artisans and others bought over his frequent travels. Another hobby of Bawa apart from landscaping was that, travel and over years of travel his collection of books and art is laudable.

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Completed in a neat facade, his house carries his trademark style throughout. His love for cars is also quite well-known, even today his Rolls Royce is parked in the garage a haunting memory of the architect who built for the classes, with the spirit of the masses.

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Apart from Bawa’s home and office, Colombo as a city is the capital for 20 million people. A colonial past, a cricketing legacy, cleanliness, infrastructure in terms of buildings and roads, by the Chinese (!), great textile industry, barefoot – the store, odel, a promising skyline are a few striking things about Colombo! One of my fellow traveller noticed the large number of ‘broom-shops’ all over the place! Cleanliness is a top priority, and it shows. Colombo though, is indeed a microcosm of the nation.

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