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Thisara Thanapathy wins Geoffrey Bawa Award 2016/2017 for Excellence in Architecture

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Architect Thisara Thanapathy was adjudged winner of the prestigious Geoffrey Bawa Award 2016/2017 for Excellence in Architecture, for his creative design of the Spa at Santani, Kandy. 

He carried off the iconic Geoffrey Bawa trophy and Rs. 1 million, presented to him by Geoffrey Bawa Trustee Suhanya Raffel at the glittering awards ceremony held at Park Street Mews on Sunday 23 July. 

This is his second time of winning the Geoffrey Bawa Award. Thanapathy won the second cycle of the Geoffrey Bawa Award 2010/2011 for his design of the Sarath Abeyratne House in July 2011. He was also adjudged the winner of the Leisure and entertainment category at the awards just concluded.


ifetime Award

Prof. David Robson was recognised for the singular honour of having contributed consistently through his work towards the greater appreciation of architecture. He was presented with the Geoffrey Bawa Award for Lifetime Contribution to Architecture by Geoffrey Bawa Trustee Suhanya Raffel. Ena de Silva, Barbara Sansoni, Prof. Seneka Bandaranayake and Prof. Ronald Lewcock were earlier winners of this signal award. 

Among Prof. David Robson’s outstanding achievements in Sri Lanka were the planning of the Hundred Thousand Houses Programme and the masterplan of the Rampokunagama New Town. He has divided his 40-plus-year career in Architecture between practice and teaching, having been Chief Housing Architect to the new town of Washington in England and a professor in the University of Brighton and the National University of Singapore. 

He first came to Sri Lanka in 1969 to develop the new course in Architecture in the University of Ceylon Colombo. Later, in the 1980, he was an adviser to the National Housing Development Authority. He is the author of a number of books on Architecture, including a monograph on Geoffrey Bawa and the book ‘Beyond Bawa – Modern Masterpieces of Monsoon Asia’.

Awards of Appreciation

These awards were presented to the team involved in moving and reconstructing, brick by brick, the Ena de Silva house at Lunuganga, a first-of-its-kind project in Sri Lanka. Architect. Amila de Mel, Engineer Deepal Wickremasinghe, Quantity Surveyor Joe Fernando and Architect and Archeologist Nilan Cooray received the awards.

Australian artistic photographer, painter and sculptor, Fiona Hall, delivered the keynote address, and distinguished Singaporean architect Mok Wei Wei made the judge’s address at the ceremony.

LAward categories for the first time

Categories for the constructions were introduced for the first time this year, in response to the fact that many assumptions about contemporary Sri Lankan architecture are now in a stage of flux. The judges explained the rationale behind this:

“We asked if it was possible, or indeed fair, to compare a hotel with a training center or a car maintenance facility in terms of their respective architectural briefs, functionality, form and of course budgets. Our decision to introduce categories recognises architectural projects that might not otherwise make it to a shortlist, which in turn allowed for comparisons to be made on more equitable terms without compromising on a standard of excellence.”

The five categories of awards are Residential, Commercial, Institutional, Industrial, Transport and infrastructure, Leisure and entertainment. 

The list of category winners at the Geoffrey Bawa Awards 2016/2017 are: 

Residential (best of category) – Studio Dwelling, Rajagiriya (2015); by Archt. Palinda Kannangara

Honourable mention – Olu Beach Villa, Ambalangoda (2013); by Michael Danne Bolier

Commercial (best of category) – Citizens Development Business Finance PLC Bank and Corporate Office, Colombo 10 (2015); by Archt. Shayan Kumaradas

Institutional (best of category) – Kaithady District Vocational Training Center, Jaffna (2015); by Archt. Chinthaka Wickramage and Nileeka Senerath

Honourable mention – Auditorium & Accommodation Chinmaya Mission, Ramboda (2014); by Archt. Yudish Ganesen

Industrial, transport and infrastructure (best of category) – Sterling Aftercare Center, Gall (2016) Industrial, by Arch. Thushara Waidyasekera

Leisure and entertainment (best of category) – Spa at Santani, Kandy (2015); by Archt. Thisara Thanapathy

​Birth anniversary

The awards ceremony marks the 98th birth anniversary of the renowned architect, and marks the conclusion of the fourth cycle of triennial awards hosted by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust. The Awards were conceptualised in 2007 and three cycles of the Awards have been held since, in 2010/11, 2007/2008 and 2013/2014. The Awards have made significant contributions towards enhancing contemporary architecture in Sri Lanka.

Spa at Santani

The spa and wellness centre uses a minimal material palette and has a minimalist approach to making simple rectilinear spaces to achieve a certain architectural silence. 

In Thanapathy’s own words, “Santani is a spa and wellness centre that attempts to play a role in the facilitation of silence in the landscape while providing the services of a spa. Silence is seen here as the antidote to our hyper connected and noisy world. This is achieved by making a building that almost entirely disappears into the landscape as a series of stone terraces planted with grass.” 

The spa comprises two elegantly proportioned buildings that float slightly off the ground which are the arrival lounge, consultation rooms and the staff rest areas. The rest of the complex is below the ground and has large openings into a small valley and paddy field. 

Celebrating the shortlist

The awards celebrate the shortlist as well as the winner. A distinctive feature of the awards is that all shortlisted projects are visited by the judges as well as a technical team. The judges deliberated in January, having visited 15 projects of 65 submissions received, of which 11 were shortlisted.

“What connects the 11 shortlisted projects is not easy to classify but if they have anything in common it would be that they all question, in one way or another, what we come to expect when we think of contemporary architecture in the country,” said the panel of judges. “Our final shortlist was made on the basis of recognising that architecture in Sri Lanka is changing with the times and bringing with it new clients and social and welfare agendas, along with questions of sustainable or green architecture. We believe these changes need to be recognised, and the Geoffrey Bawa Award for Excellence in Architecture makes this possible.” 

Two unexpected projects were shortlisted for the first time, one by a non-architect who is Sri Lankan and the other by a foreign architect who is Dutch. This suggests that Sri Lankan architecture has attained a level of maturity of design that has opened doors to the participation of non-professional Sri Lankans and overseas contenders. 

TGuest speaker Fiona Hall

Fiona Hall has mounted numerous solo exhibitions and participated in many groups exhibitions in Australia and internationally, and was Australia’s representative at the Australian Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 with the installation work ‘Wrong Way Time’ (2012–15). 

Notable exhibitions include ‘Wrong Way Time’, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2016); ‘All the King’s Men’, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2016); Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2014); ‘Australia’, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2013); dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany (2012); Biennale of Sydney, Sydney (2000 and 2010); the 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2009); ‘DeOverkant/Downunder’, Den Haag Sculpture, Netherlands (2007); and ‘Prism: Contemporary Australian Art’, Bridgestone Museum, Tokyo (2006). 

Major retrospectives of Hall’s work have been held by Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane and the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (both 2005). Hall’s work has been collected by all the major Australian state museums. She has also completed many important public commissions in Sydney and Canberra in the past two decades.


he shortlisted projects were (in order of submissions):

1) Samadhi Nature Resort, Narampanawa, (2014); by W.C. Jayasinghe

2) Citizens Development Business Finance PLC Bank and Corporate Office, Colombo 10 (2015); by Archt. Shayan Kumaradas

3) Olu Beach Villa, Ambalangoda (2013); by Michael Danne Bolier (Architect from the Netherlands)

4) Auditorium & Accommodation Chinmaya Mission, Ramboda (2014); by Archt. Yudish Ganesen

5) Mihila Green Factory, Agalawatte (2008); by Archt. Tilak Samarawickrama

6) The Urban Haven – Renovation & Addition to Carlton Pre-School, Colombo 10 (2014); by Archt. Ranga Dayasena

7) Sterling Aftercare Center, Galle (2016); by Archt. Thusara Waidyasekera

8) Studio Dwelling, Rajagiriya (2015); by Archt. Palinda Kannangara

9) Family Retreat, Malabe (2014); by Archt. Palinda Kannangara

10) Spa at Santani, Kandy. Architect Thisara Thanapathy

11) Kaithady District Vocational Training Center, Jaffna (2015); by Archt. Chinthaka Wickramage and Nileeka Senerath

The judging panel for the 2016/17 cycle comprised distinguished Singaporean architect Mok Wei Wei, Ward Beling who represents the Geoffrey Bawa Trust, D.H. Wijewardene, President elect of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, and Sharmini Perera of Raking Leaves, founder of the Sri Lanka Archives for Art, Architecture & Design, Jaffna, who is the informed lay person.

Deshamanya Geoffrey Bawa

Deshamanya Geoffrey Bawa is recognised as having been among the greatest Asian architects of the second half of the Twentieth Century, and one of the most significant Sri Lankans of his time. He was Sri Lanka’s most influential and prolific architect and South Asia’s leading guru of tropical architecture. 

Within a span of about 50 years, he created a wide range of architectural works, mostly in southwest Sri Lanka, which established a prototypes for buildings in newly-independent Sri Lanka. He designed about thirty hotels, twelve of them in Sri Lanka, and contributed enormously to the image that Sri Lanka projected to the rest of the world. Many guide books to the island now include his buildings as ‘must see’ places and rate his hotels as being among the best on the island. Bawa also built in many other Asian countries including India, Indonesia and Mauritius.

His genius lies in his sensitivity to the site and its context. A visit to a Bawa building is an occasion of heightened anticipation, surprise and delight. Bawa buildings transcend mere functionality to engage the participant in an act of celebration - of exuberant life and pristine beauty.  

The Geoffrey 

Bawa Awards

The Geoffrey Bawa Awards for Excellence in Architecture celebrate the life and work of the renowned architect whose name they carry. The Awards strive to stimulate the reinvention of the creative architectural craft and fine-tune the creative skill of the country’s architects Current concepts such as contemporary design, restoration, re-use and area conservation which are both pleasing to the eye as well as functional, are recognised. 

The Awards are modelled on the awards scheme of the prestigious Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva inaugurated by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977, which are acknowledged to have a significant impact on the architecture of developing countries. Geoffrey Bawa was himself honored with the special Chairman’s Award of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for a Lifetime’s Achievement in Architecture in 2001.

All Sri Lankans can compete for the Award, which seeks out the broadest possible range of architectural submissions. There are no fixed criteria as to size, type, nature or location. 

The Geoffrey Bawa Trust 

The Geoffrey Bawa Trust promotes the concept that good design is important to the well- being of the people of Sri Lanka as well as to the image the country projects overseas. The Trust aims to create awareness of architectural design not just among architects but also to all those who live and work in the built environment.


Archt. Shayan Kumaradas



Archt. Shayan Kumaradas


Lifetime Achievement awards Prof. David Robson


Archt. Thusara Waidyasekara


2016/17 Geoffrey Bawa Award winner Archt. Thisara Thanapathy recieves his award from Geoffrey Bawa Trust - Trustee Suhanya Raffel recently at the awards ceremony held at Park Street Mews - Pic by Upul Abyasekara











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