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The politics of culture and the problem of tradition: re-evaluating regionalist interpretations of the architecture of Geoffrey Bawa

By Carl O'Coill and Kathleen Watt


The research examines regionalist interpretations of the work of the late Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka's most celebrated architect. Although sometimes labelled a 'romantic vernacularist' or 'tropical modernist', Bawa is best known as a 'regionalist' because of the way he attempted to blend local building traditions with modernist aspirations. The aim of the study is to show how regionalist interpretations of Bawa’s work have been constrained by a form of dualistic thinking that has its foundations in the ideology of Western modernity. Given their preoccupation with the modern/tradition dichotomy, the paper argues that critics have failed to acknowledge the extent to which his work is bound up with local struggles over identity in the context of a long-standing and violent ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. A further aim is to reveal alternative readings of Bawa’s architecture from outside the canon of critical regionalism to demonstrate the fundamental inadequacies of this perspective

Topics: K100 Architecture, V360 History of Architecture
Publisher: Lit Verlag
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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