You may not have heard of Geoffrey Bawa but chances are you have felt his impact on landscape design and architecture. If you have an “outdoor room” or modern tropical touches in your garden or house, or if you have enjoyed a holiday at a chic resort in Bali or Thailand, you have probably encountered spaces, pavilions and courtyards that were designed with his influence in mind.
Lunuganga was a rubber plantation before Geoffrey Bawa purchased it (and surrounding lakes) in 1947 to be his country estate and retreat. It’s not especially close to any major cities in Sri Lanka, but it’s possible to take a day trip from either Colombo or Galle. If your budget allows, as mine sadly didn’t, it is also an incredible accomodation option.
The day I visited Lunuganga was as hot and sticky as any standard Sri Lankan day. I travelled in a three-wheeler that lost a wheel on the way, necessitating an emergency stop, and I also underestimated how long the journey would take. My helpful driver asked for directions from the locals as we approached, and finally we arrived, late in the afternoon, to a closed gate with not a soul in sight.
I was convinced that it should be open for visitors, so my driver called out and clanged against the gate until a young man casually loped down the driveway in his flip flops. I almost begged to be allowed inside and he finally agreed, looking surprised that I was expecting a garden tour.
My pictures barely hint at the magnificence of the place, but they are much more eloquent than my description might be. It felt like it opened up and unrolled like a carpet as I walked around, revealing new horizons and surprising details at every turn or hill summit. Lunuganga wasn’t just the work of an architect, it was clearly the result of Geoffrey Bawa working with nature to create his own version of paradise.