P.C. de Saram Terrace House
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Government restrictions brought private housebuilding to a near standstill during the early 1970s and Bawa's only domestic commissions came from the de Saram family. P. C. de Saram was a member of the Illangakoon family, for whom Bawa had designed his very first house, on Charles Circus, with H.H.Reid in 1951.In 1970, when de Saram asked him to design houses for each of his four children on a site on 5th Lane at the rear of the Illangakoon block of land in Colpetty, Bawa proposed a line of four row houses, each conceived as a mini version of the Ena de Silva House, with strong references to the Dutch-Muslim tradition of urban courtyard houses.

Sited on plots measuring about 15 by 35 metres (about 20 perches), each of the houses is set back to create a parking bay with a small planting bed, presenting to the street walls of white plaster with window and door reveals picked out in Corbusian primary colours, a different colour for each house. The houses comprise three transverse pavilions separated by courtyards and linked by a spine corridor. The first pavilion contains a garage, office and entrance hall, with staff accommodation on the first floor; the second contains bedrooms and bathrooms; and the third contains the dining and sitting rooms. The internal courtyards are protected by parallel pre-cast concrete beams that break up the light, diffuse heavy rain and provide security against rooftop burglars, hence earning the name the 'burglar pergola'. The interiors are cool and well lit, offering a strong sense of space and privacy on a compact plot. Surprisingly, this interesting and apparently successful experiment in urban living was never properly recorded or published.

The following year Bawa designed a single house for another member of the de Saram family in Cambridge Place, which took the form of an atrium house enclosed within a monumental blank wall.

Source: Robson, David. 2002. Geoffrey Bawa: The Complete Works. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 117-118.

5th Lane, Colpetty, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Images & Videos
Associated Names
Associated Collections
Building Usages