Geoffrey Bawa: Sri Lanka’s iconic architect

Now regarded as having been one of the most important and influential Asian architects of the twentieth century, Geoffrey Bawa is undoubtedly one of Sri Lanka’s national treasures and was responsible for linking the ancient architecture of this island with that of the modern world. He left behind a legacy that will last for decades, and works that have already inspired many young architects living on the island and beyond.

Whilst Bawa’s buildings are aesthetically stunning, it was the philosophy behind his work which really sets him apart as an architect. Bawa had a great appreciation of natural elements – the tropical sun, oceans, lush greenery and flowing water – and incorporated them in his designs, striving to create a seamless transition between the outside environment and the building. He challenged the concept that ‘indoors’ and ‘outdoors’ must be opposing, and blended them together using elements such as shaded walkways, wide indoor courtyards and open verandas. In incorporating these aspects Bawa was also ensuring that his structures were suitable for Sri Lanka’s climate, and as such he became one of the original proponents of an architectural style that would come to be known as tropical modernism.

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Bawa also had an insatiable passion for the island’s varying natural landscapes and used beautiful vistas as the focal points around which he created his works. As well as this appreciation of nature, Bawa also had a deep understanding of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage and drew ideas for his designs from the ancient kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa as well as later colonial influences from Europe. Bawa also travelled the world and introduced many popular contemporary styles to Sri Lankan architecture.

Geoffrey Bawa is so revered because he managed to move Sri Lankan architecture into the present, yet retained ancient cultural elements and upheld the importance of preserving the beauty of the island’s natural landscape. He designed several hotels, most of which are featured below, where guests can stay and experience the full extent of his prowess. Tourists can also visit (and stay at) Lunuganga, Bawa’s country home, which he converted from a dilapidated rubber plantation into a beautiful house with artfully-landscaped gardens.

Lunuganga

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Exploring Bawa’s Lunuganga gardens

Guided by a staff member of Lunuganga, explore the beautiful tropical modernist countryside home of Geoffrey Bawa. The house itself has a strange, sparse beauty and is crammed full of impressive paintings and photographs of a bygone age, but it is the exquisite gardens that are truly enchanting. Wander slowly through the trees and lose yourself in this magical place, discovering more fascinating exotic plants at every twist and turn.

Bawa’s Hotels

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Club Villa
An exceptionally serene seventeen-room boutique hotel in Bentota that provides guests with a home-from-home experience. Elegant and timeless, with tranquil gardens, beach frontage, comfortable rooms and great food. Bawa also helped to renovate the neighbouring property, Villa Bentota, another exquisite boutique hotel.

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Heritance Kandalama
Bawa conceived this hotel as an ‘austere jungle palace’ and certainly succeeded in creating one. Fronted by a lake edged with jungle, this unrelentingly modern and minimalist hotel juxtaposes perfectly with the natural landscape. It winds along a rocky outcrop, offering sweeping views of the spectacular surroundings from each room.

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The Last House
Geoffrey Bawa’s architectural swan song, The Last House is horseshoe-shaped, five-bedroom villa poised on elegant two-acre gardens with a central courtyard containing an emerald pool. Built to provide maximum privacy, this tranquil property sits on one of the island’s most unspoilt and picturesque beaches, edged by a lagoon.


Tickle your taste-buds…

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The Gallery Café (Paradise Road)

The building that houses this exceptional Colombo restaurant was once the office of Geoffrey Bawa. A dramatic walkway framed by dark pillars leads to an open-air central courtyard filled with candlelit tables. Enjoy a drink from the bar whilst soaking up the relaxing atmosphere, before choosing your favourite dishes from their extensive menu. Don’t forget to leave room for one of their sumptuous desserts! The Gallery Café is an ideal place to spend your last night in Colombo – we guarantee you will end your holiday on a high note.

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