How to explore the work of Sri Lanka’s most influential architect

As I pull again my curtain to look at the solar set over the Kandalama reservoir, I immediately discover myself inches from a beady-eyed gray langur monkey peering at me from the opposite aspect of the glass. He’s perched nonchalantly on the rail that runs spherical my window, whereas a handful of others swing by way of the bushes behind him. The forest virtually engulfs the 2 low, lateral wings of the camouflage inexperienced, concrete Kandalama Lodge, which is precisely what was envisioned by the designer – the late Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa.

The lodge is within the cultural triangle, a brief drive from the traditional Dambulla cave temple and Sigiriya, a Unesco rock fortress with over 1,000 steps that I sort out one morning earlier than breakfast (the beautiful forest view from the highest is well worth the sweaty climb).

Sri Lanka has had a troublesome six months. The nation suffered horrendous terrorist bombings on Easter Sunday, which focused three luxurious motels and three locations of worship, killing 258 individuals. Some 48 of those have been international nationals, and the blatant assault on worldwide tourism prompted the Overseas Workplace to declare the nation off-limits to UK nationals – a minimum of, in the event that they anticipated their journey insurance coverage to be legitimate or wanted any assist from the British authorities throughout their keep. The nation was solely faraway from the banned checklist on 6 June, however the six weeks of isolation took their toll. Which is why now’s the time to place our vacationer kilos to good use and return to this richly numerous island nation.

I am exhibiting solidarity whereas on the hunt for Geoffrey Bawa’s buildings. The influential architect (who studied legislation at Cambridge earlier than switching professions) is called the daddy of tropical modernism as a result of he took the design concepts of the motion and made them his personal, utilizing native supplies that suited the Asian surroundings. This 12 months is the centenary of his delivery and the Geoffrey Bawa Belief is organising a collection of exhibitions and occasions to mark the event. The primary, being held this month, is an ornamental arts set up at Lunuganga, the 25-acre nation property close to Bentota on the west coast which he known as house. Essentially the most anticipated occasion is the set up collection right here on the finish of the 12 months, which is able to characteristic works by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and American artist Lee Mingwei, amongst others.

I be a part of a dozen different Bawa followers on a tour of Lunuganga, ready patiently on the finish of an unmarked lane for the metallic gates to swing open, wanting to see inside what was basically Bawa’s inventive laboratory for 50 years. That is the place he examined out new design concepts, modifying the unique home, constructing 4 bungalows and remodeling the previous rubber plantation right into a dreamy panorama that includes ponds and pavilions, sculptures and lake views, all framed by his favorite frangipani bushes. I peek into the backyard room, with its buttermilk yellow partitions, vintage furnishings and black and white chequered flooring; then I stand beneath the berry fruit tree within the sprawling grounds the place he took afternoon tea, its trunk swooping low from the weights he held on the branches to form it; and stroll up the hill to Cinnamon Bungalow, the ultimate constructing he added, which has an virtually otherworldly tumbledown really feel.

Bawa’s inventive laboratory was at Lunuganga

(Sebastian Posingis)

From right here I head north up the coast to the Anantara Kalutara lodge, one in all Bawa’s last initiatives, which is about on the seaside the place the Kalu Ganga river meets the Indian ocean. Though he started designing the lodge in 1995, it lay dormant for nearly 20 years till it was accomplished to his authentic imaginative and prescient by one in all his proteges, architect Channa Daswatte. Bawa’s huge thought was to divide the structure of the lodge into quarters with each higher and ground-level corridors connecting totally different elements of the property. “Choreography of motion is an idea that runs by way of virtually all of Geoffrey’s work,” explains Daswatte, after we meet that afternoon.

He factors out the furnishings impressed by Bawa’s personal assortment within the ethereal foyer area and the three work by artist Laki Senanayake hanging within the library alongside Bawa’s architectural drawings. He additionally attracts our consideration to the batik banners hanging from the roof, made by his late buddy, artist Ena de Silva. She lived at 5 Alfred Place in Colombo, additionally designed by Bawa, which was named a Nationwide Heritage constructing and reconstructed by the Geoffrey Bawa Belief at Lunuganga after enormous public outcry on the information it was to be demolished.

Anantara Kalutara needed to be accomplished by Bawa’s protege

(Anantara Kalutara)

In Might, the lodge launched a day tea devoted to the architect, in addition to an app to speak company by way of the design concepts behind numerous areas. There may be additionally a spa, two swimming pools (the quietest is subsequent to Italian lunch spot Acquolina) and an Asian restaurant, Spice Merchants, the place I tuck into probably the most scrumptious fried cuttlefish and butter rooster for dinner.

On the ultimate day of my whistle-stop journey, I be a part of a bunch of structure college students on a tour of No 11, a row of modernist homes in Colombo that have been Bawa’s metropolis base and workplace (he beforehand labored across the nook on Paradise Highway at what’s now the favored Gallery Cafe). The entire area – which homes a 3rd of his artefacts and artwork – feels extremely zen, with water options and many pure mild streaming by way of inside open courtyards. Visiting all of those buildings (and there are a lot extra too, dotted across the island) is an interesting perception into Bawa’s architectural pondering – key to which was the notion that they proceed to evolve lengthy after the ultimate bricks are laid.

“As soon as he advised me Kandalama would lastly be full solely when the leopards are roaming the corridors and the bears are scaling the rooms,” recollects Daswatte. I can virtually image it now.

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Journey necessities

Getting there

SriLankan flies direct from London Heathrow to Colombo from £518 return.

Staying there

Doubles at Anantara Kalutara resort from round £292, B&B. Doubles at Kandalama Lodge from round £169, room solely.

Extra info

For extra info on the Geoffrey Bawa centenary programme, go to

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