Travel Notebook

The Beauty of Geoffrey Bawa

One of the many pleasures of my worldwide travels is seeing the myriad architectural styles that define a destination. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing firsthand the stunning work of Geoffrey Bawa, whom I’ve long admired – from Sri Lanka, he is regarded as having been one of the most important and influential Asian architects of the 20th century.

I recently visited No. 11, Bawa’s house in Colombo – an exemplary manifestation of architectural bricolage, where many styles and available items are brought together in a unifying manner. The house sits in a row of four small homes on narrow 33rd Lane in a short cul-de-sac. Bawa converted the third home into a beautiful residence with a living room, bedroom, tiny kitchen and a room for staff. When the neighbouring home became available, Bawa jumped at the chance to add a dining room and second living room. Then, some time later, the remaining adjacent homes were acquired, leading to the construction of a four-story tower as part of the complex.

On another visit, I was afforded a private visit to Lunuganga Estate, Bawa’s country home. The garden here, dating back to 1947, acted as his first muse and led him from the practice of law to his architectural studies. He returned to the estate and his precious garden, which he continued to use as an experimental laboratory for new ideas, until his death in 2003. The garden and estate is known part of the Lunuganga Trust and open to the public as a country house hotel. Our friends at Ventours can arrange a visit and stay.