Tropical modernism is a movement that came around the mid-20th century which melds the modern architectural principles that adore the beauty in vision and a sense of peace to the audience along with the Vernacular principles and traditional building techniques and styles that expose and introduce local materials and customs to the modern era. Said it is a style that indulges the minimalist aesthetics of the modern world along with the cultural and climatic conditions of the tropics. 

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Brutalism and Tropical Modernism are combined at Art Villa in Costa Rica, designed by Prague-based architects Formafatal and Refuel Works_©BoysPlayNice / Concrete Jungle, gestalten 2023,

This unique combination not only satisfies the modern aesthetics that human beings clasp but also believes the passive strategies in the structures make it more independent from electricity and external factors. Tropical modernism can be an introduction to many new material and technological inventions and the latest gadgets in the market and how several human brains are creating innovations to make it more personal and multipurpose. 

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The living room pavilion of Ray of Light House is separated from the courtyard by a full-width reflecting pond. Rainwater spouts are provided to channel water run-off from the roof to the pond_©Lin Ho Photography,

This movement responds to the natural climatic conditions, new opportunities of blending materials, cultural conditions, and vernacular practice more profoundly primarily in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Sri Lanka. Renowned architects like Geoffrey Bawa in Sri Lanka, Charles Correa in India, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry in West Africa, are the ones who were great practitioners of this movement. Their several projects have been widely exposing the tropical methods and social relevance in the modern context.

Considering the fact that almost 40%of the world’s surface lies in the tropical zone. It can have varying climatic conditions, so as a human being it’s required for us to respond to certain elements that affect our daily living and come up with vernacular methods to overcome it. 

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Illustration from Village Housing in the Tropics, written by Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, 1947. Museum no. null_© Victoria and Albert Museum, London,

Art into real by real Practitioners

In 1944 Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew stayed after the Second World War on the Gold Coast in West Africa to build schools and colleges. But this time they wanted to use this opportunity to experiment with several possibilities of modernist techniques along with the harsh climatic conditions. They came up with several techniques that would bring in passive cooling, maximise shade and allow ventilation that includes the use of Brise Soleils, adjustable louvres, and wide eaves. 

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Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry with a model of one of their many buildings for the Gold Coast, 1945.Image courtesy RIBA_©

Similarly, Geoffrey Bawa who started his career emulating Le Corbusier quickly came up with his international style called tropical modernism where he blended the culture of his native country along with the colonial tradition. He was known as the leader of tropical modernism. He treated light, space, and materials as instruments that can be used to create music. His art of expressing the materials. Volumes were unique resulting in marvellous designs. His designs never challenged nature rather they were close to heart. 

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Architect. Geoffrey Bawa_©

Some Tropical Modern Journey Done By Bawa

Looking at Bawa’s famous works we can see some famous world structures mainly in Sri Lanka like:

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De Saram House| Photo:(c) Geoffrey Bawa and Lunuganga Trusts_©
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Plantation House At Lunuganga| Photo: Giovanna Silva_©
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Landscape elements_©Giovanna Silva,
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Exterior View of Kandalama Hotel_©Courtesy of The Heritance Hotel

Asia’s Famous Tropical Modern works done by several Architects

Let’s see Some of the famous tropical modern designs in Asia which are dynamic and versatile in bringing up a new design –

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Use of courts to bring light inside; Skin and Bone Residence / A Line Studio_© Sarath Karicheri,
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Chirathu Residence by Ar. Vinu Daniel_©Anand Jaju, Jino and Midhu,
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Azul House by São Paulo architects Studio MK27: on the top floor, muxarabi screens create seclusion, shade, and a traditional Portuguese aesthetic_©André Scarpa / Concrete Jungle, gestalten 2023,

Although this movement had received a lot of criticism for colonial roots this was widely accepted in and around the world. Now human beings are more into nature. This style allows for the explorations of social and cultural aesthetics of a place. Also, many reflect modern design practices and contemplate human contingencies. This promotes more contextual and thoughtful architectural practice.


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Devapriya is an architect from Kerala, a fresher who is trying to acknowledge her strength in different fields of architecture. An energetic soul more attached to history and emotions, being expressive and approachable is another quality that makes her indulge in platforms like writing, teaching, Also her love for tropical architecture and sustainable design approaches.