Martenstyn House
Colombo, Sri Lanka

At the beginning of the 1960s Bawa had built a simple pavilion house for Pin and Pam Fernando on a fairly small plot in a short cul­de-sac off Kannangara Mawatha, and in 1977 they called him back to design a second house on the same plot for their daughter. Bawa had been experimenting with tower houses ever since completing the house for Peter Keuneman and had recently added a tower to his own house in 33rd Lane. He tucked the new house into a corner of the Fernandos' garden and let it grow up between the branches of a tall bo tree. Visitors arrive at a porch at the end of the cul-de-sac and are led via a long toplit tunnel past the front of the Fernando House to the base of the tower. Kitchen and dining room are on the ground floor, the sitting room is on the first floor, two bedrooms are on the second floor and the top floor is given over to a roof terrace nestling into the uppermost branches of the tree. All four levels are linked by a simple concrete staircase with metal handrails, and a double-height void connects the dining and sitting rooms.

As well as offering an alternative prototype for the tropical urban house, the Martenstyn House is important because it is spatially innovative. It is also an example of a new 'stripped-down' aesthetic that would reappear in Bawa's work with increasing frequency, signifying his growing irritation with being pigeon-holed as a vernacularist.

Source: Robson, David. 2002. Geoffrey Bawa: The Complete Works. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 168-171.
47/1B Kannangara Maw., Colombo, Sri Lanka
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