Top Geoffrey Bawa Properties to Visit on Your Holiday in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a land replete with both geographical and man-made wonders. While many are naturally caught up with the country’s Instagram-worthy coasts and countrysides, our top architectural properties are equally guaranteed to leave one in throes of wonder and delight. As the home of globally renowned architect, Geoffrey Bawa, visiting Sri Lanka without a tour of some his celebrated properties is nothing short of a touristic faux pas.
From commercial cafes to internationally acclaimed hotels, the once aspiring lawyer left an indelible mark on the island’s architectural heritage, throughout the course of his life. Look below for some of the best properties to visit on your sun-soaked holiday, for a glimpse into the work of Sri Lanka’s most celebrated architect.
Originally a cinnamon estate and a rubber plantation under colonial rule, the Lunuganga estate is arguably Bawa’s most famous piece of work. Purchased with the intention of converting the quaint bungalow into a getaway home, the architect kept transforming this humble property into an architect’s wonderland until his death in 2003.
Containing the artistry of renowned international and local artists, the 15-acre property is littered with artefacts gathered painstakingly from Asia and Europe. Now run by a trust set up to manage the property, Lunuganga also serves as a boutique hotel and is open to the public for viewing. Accommodation is understandably not cheap but is well worth the experience if you can afford it.
With its breathtaking interior and tastefully displayed antiques, visiting this property is bound to leave you in awe of the talent and skill of Geoffrey Bawa. Even if you are unable to stay a few days to soak in its complete grandeur, a quick tour is an absolute must for anyone who finds themselves in the Bentota area.
Heritance Hotel, Kandalama
Constructed on the outskirts of the scenic Dambulla city, the Kandalama Hotel is an architectural paradise tucked away in the heart of Sri Lanka. Commissioned by the Aitken Spence chain of hotels, the resort is one of Bawa’s signature works, and is a lasting memorial of his incredible skill and vision.
Displaying a rare sensitivity to the context in which it is situated, the hotel mirrors many aspects of the Sigiriya experience, fitting gracefully into the rich historical and cultural environment it finds itself in. While the hotel is believed to be stylistically different from his other works, it nonetheless carries signs of the tropical modernism for which Bawa is famous for. The most widely-talked about feature of the hotel is undoubtedly its breathtaking infinity pool, blurring the lines between its azure edges and the distant horizon. Offering guests stunning vistas of the countrysides Sri Lanka is renowned for, the pool is nonetheless only one of the many features to see and admire at Heritance, Kandalama.
While Number 11 isn’t the biggest or even the most impressive of the Bawa properties, its status as the architect’s final home holds more value to his ardent fans and followers, than any other site. Located in the heart of Colombo on Bagatalle Road, the house is open for tours to the public and is frequently packed with wide-eyed tourists, soaking up the living space of an international architectural icon.
A miniature maze of architectural wonder, the home’s open spaces and the array of antique furniture and artefacts gives one a deeper look into the life of Geoffrey Bawa. Visitors here are taken on a guided tour around the property, where insights about the home and fond memories are shared and reminisced. While you may find the area cramped due to the number of people taking the tour (solo visits to the property are not entertained), it is nonetheless a magical experience, leaving one with newfound appreciation and respect for the architect’s work and life.
Anantara Resort, Kalutara
Among Bawa’s final projects before his death in 2003, the Anantara Resort, Kalutara, is a property straight out of a luxury travel page on Instagram. While he later became too sick to continue work on the property, a protege took up the remaining design and construction following his death, keeping in line with the signature style of the late architect.
Anyone with even the briefest exposure to the works of Geoffrey Bawa will recognise his touch in the open, airy spaces in the arrival hall, lobby and bar area of the hotel. With the resort’s library modelled similar to his personal study area, and with sketches from his personal archives displayed here, the hotel is a flourishing ode to the late architect’s lasting effect on Sri Lankan architecture.
Keen for a more in-depth architectural experience? At Fernando Travels, we aim to please. Contact us for more information and we’ll give you the best of travel tips and guidance, making your holiday in Sri Lanka an experience you’ll never forget!