Architecture of Geoffrey Bawa : Ruhunu University (Matara, Sri Lanka)
There are 16 universities in Sri Lanka with a population of 20 million. One of them is Ruhunu University. Bawa started designing in 1979, and it was completed in 1988.
When entering from the main road, a large adjustment pond and a playground appear. On the slope of the hill beyond them, school buildings lie one above another. Buildings are disposed separately and are connected by a network of stairs and corridors going up and down.
My first impression was not more than an ordinary canvas extended on a slope.
Indoor classrooms, semi-outdoor break spaces and outdoor gardens are arranged in well balance. It is suitable for the climate and looks a fascinating place for study. However, it is common in a public school built at a low cost that it has no many highlighting scenes. Red roof tiles considered to the rain are usually seen in Sri Lanka, windows are arranged adjusting to column and beams installed with regular interval and finishing with plaster or paint is modest. It is a colonial architecture designed simply.
However, as I walked for a while, the impression has changed. There are a lot of ups and downs though I was supposed to walk in buildings along the landscape. In fact, if observed, each building is not arranged along the meandering of the landscape but disposed geometrically. To tell more concretely, the angle of the disposition is combination of 90 degrees, 60 degrees, 30 degrees, and 45 degrees. To the extent possible, buildings is arranged close to the meandering of the landscape, but the principal of the angle is taken priority more than exactly fitting to the landscape.
Corridors connecting the buildings arranged in that way is not winding along the contour line but straight along the angle. So, whether they walk straight or change direction, staircase always appear and they have to go ups and downs.
Another landscape, which seemed to fit the landscape but had a delicate gap with it, was the identity of this Ruhunu University. Similarly to the Kandalama Hotel, this Bawa architecture is also distinct from the simple respect for landscape.
At first glance, it may be expressed with a conventional word like the architecture that considers to the environment and historical background. But, in reality, it was not straightforward architecture.
However, it has no focal points and the whole space is designed with similar repetition, so it is true that it makes feel a lack that is often attended with systematic planning. But, that is my impression as an target of architectural tourism, and the evaluation for the function as a university may be different.
And I found rocks here as well. Those protrude from the wall of the foundation although a part of places are used to keep materials and it seems to be sinful.
10 minutes by car from downtown Matara.
Buddhist Monastic Architecture in Sri Lanka (A. Senneviratna + Benjamin Polk, Abhinav Publications, 1992)
Lonely Planet Guide 'Sri Lanka' (Lonely Planet Publication, 2006)
2008.06 Photos in English version, and photos and text in Japanese version
2018.01 Change of photos and English text