My best friend Neha, an interior designer, was very keen on visiting Lunuganga – Geoffrey Bawa’s country home, so, here we are!
For those who don’t know, Geoffrey Bawa is a legendary Sri Lankan architect who designed some of the most stunning resorts, temples and homes in Sri Lanka. He believed in bringing people closer to the fauna and flora of a place; in fact, with most of his designs, you won’t realise when you’ve stepped indoors or when you’re basking outdoors. He wanted his designs to settle and grow with their natural surroundings. We stayed in one of the hotels designed by him and were spellbound by the simplicity of his ideologies.
Mr. Bawa was not an architect or designer, in fact his passion for it only grew once he bought this very property. Maybe he was destined to become one of the most important and influential Asian architects of the twentieth century! On a side note, I’m not an architect or designer, but I’m in complete awe of this place.
If you plan to visit after reading this, know that they are very punctual and strict about starting the tour on time, will be sharing all those details towards the end. Since we knew that already, we reached an hour earlier and wandered outside. 😊
We were greeted by Lahiru, a sweet young Sri Lankan boy dressed in white, who took us on an hour and a half long garden tour through Geoffrey’s tropical version of a European renaissance garden that, wait for it, is spread over 25 acres!
We roamed around the 5-acre landscaped area and saw 6 beautiful cottages with traditional tiled roofs from the outside. To go in any, you have to book each room, and the cheapest started at $200.
But I managed to get this.
You’ll spot many such bells at Geoffrey Bawa’s country home. You see, Mr. Bawa wanted his help to easily attend to him no matter where he was. Whether it was bringing him drinks, food or stationery; each of the 14 bells had a distinctive sound to indicate exactly where he was. Clever, right?
Geoffrey Bawa would have breakfast on this very table.
Lunuganga was Geoffrey’s first muse. From 1947 to 1998, Bawa continued to experiment with his country home. He thought of it as a garden within a larger garden.
This is a butterfly-shaped pond filled with waterlilies – Sri Lanka’s national flower that symbolises truth, purity and discipline.
Geoffrey bought this abandoned property which was in the middle of a rubber and cinnamon plantation.
Lahiru shared with us how kids usually pick up the shell of the rubber seed and turn it into a toy.
Any guesses what’s behind this door?
The checkered tiles are a running theme throughout the estate.
Lahiru suggested we try these berries, it’s like Java Plums, only smaller and almost tasteless. We did not like it, but his expression cause of our reactions was priceless. Let me tell you a bit about Lahiru, he’s been working here at the estate for over 6 years and has never stepped out of Bentota. He learnt English on the job and speaks Hindi better than I do. Because of the guests that stay here, Lahiru’s picked up a few words from each language and tried to teach me some! He belongs to a lower-middle class family but boasts that his mother is the best cook in Sri Lanka. 🙂 Someday he hopes to get into the Dubai Hospitality sector, I wish him luck and hope to meet him there some day!
The Water Gate connects two islands of Appaladuwa and Honduwa from this spot.
Bawa was very particular about his privacy. He created the ha-ha road (a sunken passageway that’s completely concealed) leading to another property. You can’t really reach the road from any other way, and the dense shrubs make for an excellent camouflage. This is the view from bridge.
Here lies the horned head of Pan, half man and half goat, a Greek god that protects animals of the forest.
The Cinnamon Hill house is one of Mr. Bawa’s latest additions. It has a bathroom that’s open to sky.
This is Sri Lanka’s National Tree – Iron Wood or Na Tree. It’s believed that Buddha attained enlightenment under this tree. Did you know the leaves are a pinkish-red at first and then they turn green?
Geoffrey Bawa never got married, and it is rumoured that he was gay. And that one of his close male artist friends stayed with him.
A very cute old Japanese couple were living here for 2 days!
Like I promised, here’s a link to Geoffrey’s work, which includes Lunuganga.
After Bawa’s death in 2003, his estate was left to the Lunuganga Trust that arrange for these tours and run this place as a country house hotel.
There a few batches for the Garden Tour – 9:30am, 11:30am, 2:00pm & 3:30pm from Monday to Sunday. The entrance fee is LKR 1,500/- and if you want to have lunch there, its a little more. We reached post 2, so couldn’t have a meal there, but would have loved too!