The Pradeep Jayewardene house was commissioned by the grandson of past Sri Lankan president J.R. Jayewardene in 1997. Pradeep asked architect and family friend Geoffrey Bawa to design an informal vacation home for the extended Jayawardene family in Mirissa, Sri Lanka. A fire had destroyed their original bungalow a decade earlier, and the family desired a new shared retreat at the same location to replace the lost structure. The openness and simplicity of the pavilion that Bawa ultimately designed allows the architecture of the home to defer to the dramatic topography and views of its cliff-top setting.
The site is on the northern outskirts of Mirissa, a small coastal town approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Colombo. The house overlooks the Weligama Bay from atop the steep bluff that forms its eastern coast. Access to the site is via a 375-meter-long private road that connects directly to the Colombo-Galle Highway. At the end of the drive, two gates regulate entry to the site at its northeastern corner. A single gate to the west allows pedestrian access to the sloping lawn that leads up to the main house, while a double gate to the east opens onto a short continuation of the road. The driveway terminates in a small garage structure eighty-five meters south of the gate. The main residence, a strictly rectangular structure thirty-four meters long and twelve meters wide, is located on the precise crest of the hill that rises above the bay, ten meters to the west of the garage. The longitudinal axis of the house is rotated approximately seventy-two degrees counter-clockwise from the north-south meridian.
The split level structure of the house takes advantage of the sloping site, masking the enclosed mass of the building by setting it into the earth. This minimizes the visual impact of the building volume and contributes to the effect of structural lightness that Bawa sought to achieve. A small set of walled rooms is located a half-level below the primary living space, opening onto a small tiled lower courtyard near the garage. A large open air pavilion occupies the western two-thirds of the house floorplate, while the lower bedroom level completes the eastern third. The roof of the sunken bedrooms is raised only a few feet above the ground level of the upper living space, and it functions as a second open air sitting area with built-in benches. The roof plane is high enough to cover all levels of the house in one linear gesture. The roof cants gently to the south, both to allow for water runoff and to spatially open the pavilion to the sloping lawn and bay views to its north.
The house is extremely spare in its articulation. There is essentially no ornamentation of the steel and concrete structure aside from the gold paint that covers the concrete walls of the rooms on the lower level. Large wooden doors with cast iron hardware and bronze knobs mark the threshold between the interior and exterior spaces of the home.
The design for the Pradeep Jayewardene house can be seen as the development of basic spatial ideas present in Bawa's earlier work. Bawa's biographer David Robson has noted the similarities between this project and the A. S. H. de Silva House (1959-60), designed nearly forty years earlier. Both residences feature a single strong, sloping roof plane that creates a continuity between the enclosed and open air spaces beneath it. The Pradeep Jayawardene house was completed in 1998, late in Bawa's career, and its elegance and clarity can be attributed to the maturity of Bawa's vision after forty years of continually evolving practice.