With Sri Lanka being named the destination for 2019, tourism will only increase in this teardrop shaped nation.
Finding places to visit away from the maddening crowds is a very good reason to visit Geoffrey Bawa’s garden as it is largely undiscovered by tourists, being something different from the ‘usual’ tourist attraction.
Not to be confused with Brief Garden – the former estate of Geoffrey’s older brother, Bevis.
Who was Geoffrey Bawa you say? He was Sri Lanka’s most well-known architect. In fact, he is deemed to be the most influential Asian architect of his time (dying in 2003). For those architect enthusiasts out there, he was one of the founding fathers of the architectural style known as, “tropical modernism”. Bawa is probably best known for designing Sri Lanka’s Houses of Parliament.
Living permanently in Colombo, Lunuganga Estate, situated on the banks of Dedduwa Lake in Bentota (midway between Colombo and Galle), was Geoffrey Bawa’s country retreat. Here, on 23 acres, he spent 50 years turning this abandoned rubber plantation (and prior to that, a cinnamon plantation) into gardens of multiple shades of green.
We explored the gardens with the Head Curator on a 2-hour private tour.
Don’t expect to find manicured gardens of colourful flowers, neat borders and gurgling fountains. But do expect a tamed, tropical wilderness of sudden vistas, intimate groves, sculptures and wide landscapes. I found Bawa’s garden to be a place of peace, tranquillity and restfulness.
Come take a stroll with me on a visual tour of Geoffrey Bawa’s garden.
Bawa designed Sri Lanka’s Parliament House and then designed his hen house (chicken coup) on the estate in the same style. Take from that what you will!
Sandela Pavilion is an open, airy space and served as Bawa’s office. From here he had a lovely view of the lake and could see anyone who arrived at the main gate.
The Red Terrace
The Red Terrace derives its name from the red laterite ground surface, produced by the decomposition of the underlying rocks.
The Water Garden
The water garden pond is shaped like a butterfly and covered with water lilies. The area has a number of sculptures and a bench seat beside the pond in the shade of trees. Here Bawa would sit and ring the garden bell for his gin and tonic to be brought to him.
There are a number of sculptures around the garden.
The sundial sculpture (above left) in the water garden has an air of decline and abandonment. While the sculpture of the pagan god, Pan (above right) was called “Hindu” Pan by Bawa. No reason was given as to why he called it such.
The Plain of Jars
In a setting of sloping grassy plains with the occasional tall tree, the Ming jars that dot this part of the landscape were added here by Bawa.
The estate is set in Sri Lanka’s wet tropical zone.
So tropical fruits, like the Jack Fruit, are not unknown and grow to large proportions.
Cinnamon Hill House
Cinnamon Hill House was used by Bawa as a studio from where he created his architectural designs. It was the last addition to the Garden.
Geoffrey Bawa’s Home
On Cinnamon Hill sits Geoffrey Bawa’s former home on the estate.
Lunch on the wide veranda of Bawa’s former home, with its views over the lake and a set menu of traditional Sri Lankan curries, was a visual and gastronomic pleasure.
The gardens are open to the public and the buildings on the estate are run as a country house hotel. Should you like to have lunch whilst visiting the estate, a reservation is essential. For more information, go to the Geoffrey Bawa Trust website and click on “Lunuganga Country Estate”.
Wanting to know more on what to do in Sri Lanka? Click on the link to read about my walk along the railway line: Walking the Line in Sri Lanka from Ella to Demodara.
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