Contemporary Architecture


Street Address Ruhunu University
Location Matara, Sri Lanka
Architect/Planner: Geoffrey Bawa
Client Ministry of Education
Date 1980-1988
Century 20th
Decade 1980s
Building Type Educational
Building Usage University


  • On the south coast near Matara
  • covered an area of thirty hectares and spanned across two hills with views across a lake towards the southern ocean.
  • The campus required 50, 000 square metres of buildings to accommodate total of 4,000 students.
  • built by a Dutch contractors
  • Took eight years to complete.


Bawa’s design deployed over fifty separate pavilions linked by a system of covered loggias on a predominantly orthogonal grid and used a limited vocabulary of forms and materials borrowed from the Porto-Sinhalese building traditions of the late Medieval Period, but it exploited the changing topography of the site to create an ever varying sequence of courts and verandahs, vistas and closures. The result was a modern campus, vast in size but human in scale.


  • Bawa placed the vice chancellor’s lodge and a guest house on the western hill and flooded the intervening valley to create a buffer between the road and the main campus.
  • wrapped the buildings of the science faculty around the northern hill and those of the arts faculty around the southern hill, using the depression between them for the library and other central facilities.
  • Buildings were planned orthogonally on a north-south grid but were allowed to ‘run with site’.
  • Natural features such as rocky outcrops were incorporated into the bases of buildings or became focal features of the open spaces.
  • The limited architectural vocabulary clearly derives from Porto- Sinhalese traditions
  • Exterior view showing terraces and juxtaposition of buildings with each other and landscape
  • Pavilions, varying in scale and extent, are connected by covered links and separated by an ever-changing succession of garden courts.
  • Everywhere there are places to pause and consider, to sit and contemplate, to gather and discuss.
  • The main routes either cut uncompromisingly across the contours or meander horizontally along them.
  • Exterior view from street level shows use of stone and concrete in façade
  • Views are carefully orchestrated in a scenographic sequence that conceals and reveals in turn, playing the northern views of jungle and distant hills against the southern views of the lake and the ocean beyond, always referring back to the picturesque hump-backed bridge that connects the entrance across the lake to the central valley and acts as the linchpin of the whole composition.
  • Ruhunu is remarkable in that it is composed from a series of fairly simple and, in the main, unremarkable buildings – about fifty in total – all built with a limited palette of materials and a limited vocabulary of standard details.
  • The construction is straightforward, comprising walls of plastered brick on a concrete frame and roofs of half-round tile laid on corrugated cement sheeting.
  • Buildings are aligned carefully to minimize solar intrusion and mitigate the effects of the south-west monsoon.
  • Few of the spaces are air-conditioned and the buildings rely for the most part on natural ventilation.
  • large dimensions and triple story covered entrance portico


  • Geoffrey Manning Bawa
  • Born in 1919
  • In 1938 Geoffrey went to Cambridge to read English and later studied Law in London.
  • worked for some time in a Colombo law firm.
  • Soon tired from the legal profession
  • 1948 he came to a temporary halt in Italy where, seduced by its Renaissance gardens
  • He returned to Ceylon where he bought Lunuganga.
  • Wanted to make Lunuganga an Italian garden but laid bare his lack of technical knowledge
  • 1951 he began a trial apprenticeship with Edwards, Reid and Begg.
  • 1953 he applied to the Architectural Association School in London.
  • Finally qualified as an ARCHITECT in 1957 at the age of 38.


  • Geoffrey Bawa started in the firm of Edwards Reid and Begg.
  • His fellow partners from 1959 to 1967 were Jimmy Nilgiria and Valentine Gunesekera.
  • The Danish architect Ulrik Plesner joined the practice in 1959 and worked as a close collaborator with Bawa until the end of 1966.
  • After 1967 Bawa’s sole partner was Dr. K. Poologasundram who acted as engineer and office manager until the partnership was dissolved in 1989.
  • In 1990 Bawa founded  ‘Geoffrey Bawa Associates’.
  • Channa Daswatte acted as his principal associate from 1993 until 1998.


  • Highly personal in his approach, evoking the pleasures of the senses that go hand in hand with the climate, landscape, and culture of ancient Ceylon(Present day Sri Lanka).
  • Brings together an appreciation of the Western humanist tradition in architecture with needs and lifestyles of his own country.
  • The principal force behind TROPICAL MODERNISM.
  • Work with a sensitivity to site and context.
  • His designs break down the barriers between inside and outside, between interior design and landscape architecture.
  • He reduced buildings to a series of scenographically conceived spaces separated by courtyards and gardens.
  • His ideas are providing a bridge between the past and the future, a mirror in which ordinary people can obtain a clearer image of their own evolving culture



This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s