Geoffrey Bawa was one of the greatest architects to ever grace the face of Sri Lanka, and his famous estate at Lunuganga is now open to the public as a showcase to his grand vision and spectacular work as an artist and a lover of beauty. This small piece of land of fifteen acres, situated five kilometers off the southwestern town of Bentota, on Dedduwa Lake is perhaps his true masterpiece and is the place that caused a shift in his destiny, from one of a legal advisor to that of a great artist.

Thanks to the Lunuganga Trust of 2003, the estate is now open to all visitors, and while it is not a hotel there is a suited area for guests to stay, with four bedrooms in total. There is also a two-bedroom studio on Cinnamon Hill. The main house itself is laid out on open courtyards, sometimes with the occasional overhanging vines or plants, just to provide a bit of atmosphere and lend the feeling of literally living with nature under your nose.

Perhaps the finest centerpieces in this mass of artworks are the gardens. They are inspired by the Italian Renaissance design and also by more European styles drawn from further away in time.

In places one can see haunting faces carved into concrete pots, one in particular being quite similar to the “Green Man” designs that abounded Late Medieval European gardens. There is a statue of a casually reclining lion beside the lake, its style more akin to Classical sculpture than to the more stylistic local designs but it still never ceases to charm viewers with the fine detail of its musculature as it twists towards the viewer.

One particularly interesting feature is that of a large nude statue of a beautiful young male overlooking the lake on the northern terrace, among other things; it seems to have been lifted out of anywhere in 15th Century Florence in its resemblance to these ancient works of art. It is therefore Bawa’s vision of a perfect garden idyll, almost like his own personal Eden. The house itself rises up out of verdant fields and unspoiled countryside like a beautifully simplistic beacon, almost looking out of place and yet seeming to be firmly fitted into its own timeframe.

Part of the beauty of the interior of the four-bedroom plantation house-style home of Bawa, is the chessboard pattern on the floor, blacks and whites clearly kept apart from each other and yet close together. The contrasting colors almost beautifully match the varnished surfaces of the furniture here with poetic appeal.


Written by Vasika Udurawane for

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