Architecture of Geoffrey Bawa : Shima Malaka Temple (Colombo, Sri Lanka)

When I arrived at the Shima Malaka Temple, the first thing that drew my attention was a blue tile roof.

In Sri Lanka, most of houses in either towns or villages carries a red tile roof. So, the blue tile roof on the temple similar to the shape of a house is pretty striking. Since the tile has a sophisticated texture and is not cheap-looking, I felt fresh and innovative. But that may be a foreigner's viewpoint.

Apart from the banks where the buildings lined up, it is floating in the lake and stand like the focal point of this area. But, for the Sri Lankans, it may be a tacky design in the landscape of the lake.

Actually, this blue tile seems to not have been selected by Bawa and red tile originally. But, when I looked at “specialty” produced by the blue tiles rare in Sri Lanka, I thought that it was appropriate for the special temple in the special place.

The temple consists of three square islands, which are connected by bridges. The large main hall on the center island dedicates the principal image of Buddha, a small sanctuary hall is on the north side, and, on the south island, a small stupa and a bodhi tree are installed and small shrines for deities are placed on all sides. The main hall is assisted by two islands on both sides so that the Budha statue is attended by the attendant statues.

The main hall is a small building of 10 meters square, but it is a work that displays Bawa’s ability. On all sides of one room space with a simple frame, wooden screens with a motif of Sri Lankan architecture is hung obliquely toward the eaves edge.

Though the composition is simple, a delicate and beautiful architecture appears with the design of the grid screen, which is decorated by wooden sculptures is considered to the interval of repetition and delicate balance of angle. From the morning till the evening, the light entering through the grid is changing from moment to moment and is reflected in the room.

The way of designing is very modern, but, as a result of skillful superimposition of the local architectural culture (Bawa has noticed not only Sri Lankan architecture but also Indian and Nepal architecture), it has a distance with either traditional architecture or modern architecture but gets the ability to connect both.

If so, the blue tile may have found a place suitable for it.

To Japanese Version

Google Maps

10 minutes by car from downtown Colombo.



Geoffrey Bawa the Complete Works (David Robson, Thames & Hudson, 2002)

2008.06 Photos in English version, and photos and text in Japanese version

2018.01 Change of photos and English text

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Shima Malaka Temple (1978)

Photo by Daigo Ishii