Art of living: Geoffrey Bawa’s 5 Great Creations

A lawyer, a traveller, and an architect—Geoffrey Bawa’s life is as textured as the art he has created across the sub-continent. In Sri Lanka, where he was born and where he returned after travelling the world, Bawa crafted boutique hotels that have turned destinations by themselves. To mark the decade of his passing, we have listed some of Bawa’s most iconic works: 

The Last House, Tangalle, Sri Lanka A six-bedroom seaside retreat on Mawella Beach in Tangalle, The Last House is a pretty little thing indeed. Centred around a swimming pool, its open, airy design and bright colours immediately lull you into a state of absolute calm.  All its bedrooms come with views of the sea and the house is furnished in the trademark Bawa style—a delightful mix of antique and contemporary. The Last House comes fully staffed and stocked and can comfortably accommodate up to 14 people. Lunuganga, Bentota, Sri Lanka Geoffrey Bawa’s former country estate Lunuganga is located along the Bentota River. Consisting of four suites and one two-bedroom cottage, it is currently run as a hotel and is mostly furnished with Dutch furniture, antiques and artworks from Bawa’s own collection. One of the most stunning areas in the estate is the Glass Room, with two of the sides walled by what else, but glass. The view is exquisite, and almost projects you into the trees. The property also houses a multi-cuisine restaurant, which emphasises on the Sri Lankan style of cooking.

The Lunuganga garden, of which Bawa was exceptionally proud, is a stunning portrayal of a man’s mastery over his craft. The garden served as inspiration and muse to Bawa’s subsequent architectural accomplishments. The garden is open to visitors from 9am to 5pm. An entrance fee is to be paid at the gate and a guided tour of the garden is available on request. Bring along a book and spend a languid afternoon in any one of the several garden pavilions.  

Heritage Madurai, Madurai, India This 17-acre resort is one of nine projects in India helmed by Bawa through his illustrious career. There are three types of rooms here: Deluxe Club, Standard Club and Luxury Villa. The Luxury Villa comes with its own plunge pool and sun deck. The hotel has three dining venues: Banyan Restaurant, Swigg & Tee Bar and The Coffee Shop. The most interesting feature in the resort, however, is 262-ft swimming pool, which is designed in the image of the temple tank of Thirumalai Temple.

Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle Sri Lanka With exquisite views of the Indian Ocean from its hilltop location, the 60-room and three-suite Jetwing Lighthouse hotel is a gorgeously stylish locale for your Sri Lankan sojourn. This hotel was one of Bawa’s last creations and is almost as famous in Galle as the town’s lighthouse. The hotel has five dining venues, including the very private and romantic option to dine on the beach. There is also a spa, which will tailor a package for you during your stay. For the adventurous, the hotel is more than happy to organise excursions—a trip into the heart of the rainforest, exploring the nearby Galle Fort or whale-watching off the coast. Those who prefer on-location activities can play squash, tennis or a couple of rounds of pool.

Club Villa, Bentota, Sri Lanka The Club Villa combines colonial architecture with modern convenience and is another Geoffrey Bawa gem. The 17 rooms in this villa all have period furniture and are adorned with items handpicked from the days of the Dutch. With its brightly coloured walls and beautiful artwork, the villa manages to blend 19th-century woodwork with 21st century design and aesthetics. However, only some of the deluxe rooms are air-conditioned.

The Club Suite is perfect for contemplation on a warm Sri Lankan evening. It has a one-bedroom suite with a separate living area and two well-appointed bathrooms with rain showers and a private garden. Each room has, in addition to vintage furniture, hand woven murals and batiks. The dining here ranges from Sri Lankan to European with a focus on seafood.

The property also has a swimming pool, on whose edge the hotel serves juicy king coconuts in the morning and delicious high-tea with cake in the afternoon. Club even offers daily excursions if you’d like to set out and explore. You can visit Brief, a house with landscaped gardens designed by Bevis Bawa, Geoffrey Bawa’s brother. Water bodies dot the property and break up the rolling green. The interior of the cottage contains artwork by Geoffrey Bawa as well as Donald Friend, an Australian artist-acquaintance. Everything about this property has been carefully calculated and planned; from the manicured lawns and shallow ponds to tropical trees and open spaces. Everything blends together to create a perfect balance, giving the place an almost Zen-like feel.  

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