Ena De Silva House

When I was in Sri Lanka earlier this year I had the great pleasure of being part of a team that worked on measuring and recording one of Geoffrey Bawa’s most important early works, the Ena De Silva House. This remarkable building was the result of creative relationship between Ena and Geoffrey that resulted in design of a radical house that is calmly influenced by such diverse strains as 20th Century modernism, Sri Lankin Buddhist courtyards, tropical regionalism and perhaps most surprisingly architecture from the Italian Renaissance. For a more scholarly discussion on the importance of the building I draw your attention to ArchNet.

I was in charge of constructing the 3d Computer model which can be seen in the series of slides above.  The land under the house was sold earlier this year and the surrounds of the house have changed dramatically over the past 40 years since its construction so the open airy design is no long so appropriate for the cluttered and smoggy centre of Colombo. After much debate and discussion it has been formally agreed the building is to be entirely archived, reconstructed and rebuilt at another location down the coast.  It was quite a unique experience to see so many great Sri Lankin architects and institutions put their minds to this complex and somewhat political task. It is a rich and warm building that deserves all the praise it gets.

As it seemed to be the case with Geoffery he reasons for innovation were quite sensible, when discussing this building with Channa Daswatte in 1997, (Channa introduced me to the project) he said “I remember talking to Ena, seeing her surrounded by all the things she liked. All she wanted was brick walls’ and a roof. The plan came about largely because she, and consequently I, wanted a private compound that would not be overlooked by the neighbours.”