Geoffrey Bawa was born in 1919. His father was a wealthy and successful lawyer, of Muslim and English parentage, and his mother was of mixed German, Scottish and Sinhalese descent. He was educated at Royal College, Colombo after which he studied English and Law, 1938, at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge gaining a BA (English Literature Tripos) and went on to read law at Middle Temple, London becoming a Barrister in 1944. Returning to Ceylon, after World War II, he started working for a Colombo Law firm.
After the death of his mother he left the profession and soon left to travel for two years in 1946, going to the Far East, across the United States and finally to Europe and almost settling in Italy. By this time he was 28 years old and had spent one-third of his life away from Sri Lanka. His plans to buy an Italian villa and settle down did not happen, and in 1948 returned to Sri Lanka. On the on the south-west coast of the island, between Colombo and Galle, Bawa bought an abandoned rubber estate at Lunuganga planning to creating an Italian garden from a tropical wilderness.
However he soon found that his ideas were compromised by his lack of technical knowledge. In 1951 he was apprentice to H.H. Reid, of the Colombo architectural practice Edwards, Reid and Begg, whom he was the sole surviving partner. In 1952 Reid suddenly died and Bawa returned to England and, after spending a year at Cambridge, enrolled as a student at the Architectural Association in London, where he is remembered as the tallest, oldest and most outspoken student of his generation. In 1957 at the age of 38 he returned to Sri Lanka qualified as an architect to take over what was left of Reid’s practice.
He became apprenticed to the architectural practice of Edwards Reid and Begg in Colombo after he advanced his education in architecture by gaining a Diploma in Architecture from Architectural Association, London in 1956 and in the following year he became an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects whereupon he returned to Ceylon becoming a partner of Messrs. Edwards, Reid and Begg, Colombo in 1958. Bawa became an Associate of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects in 1960. An ensuing close association with a coterie of like-minded artists and designers, including Ena de Silva, Barbara Sansoni and Laki Senanayake, produced a new awareness of indigenous materials and crafts, leading to a post colonial renaissance of culture.
Geoffrey Bawa’s work range mainly in Sri Lanka, however he has worked in several other countries as well: nine times in India, three times in Indonesia, twice in Mauritius and once in Japan, Pakistan, Fiji, Egypt and Singapore. His works include houses, hotels, schools, clubs, offices and government buildings, most notably the Sri Lankan Parliament Building.