Lunuganga Geoffrey Bawa’s Country Estate


Lunuganga Geoffrey Bawa's Country Estate is placed and shows the soul of Geoffrey Bawa, the acclaimed Sri Lankan architect.
From the middle of the estate, turn to the south, and a broad swathe of the green field, fringed by bushes, grows smoothly upwards to Cinnamon Hill. Ahead, the lake glimmers and draws the eye to the hills in the background. Turn to the north, and a brilliant azure range of water and sky swings into the picture. Here, the edge of the land slopes away in an impressive cliff to show a water garden filled with wildflowers and beautiful rice paddies.
Elements of Italian Renaissance landscapes, English decoration, Japanese garden art, & the water gardens of ancient Sri Lanka have combined classic Greco-Roman statues pose insouciantly, and fantastic bacchanalian sculptures look from tangles of underbrush. Lunuganga is an encounter of most marvellous artistic pleasure and remains Bawa's most expensive piece and evidence.

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History of Lunuganga Estate

The Lunuganga Estate was once a cinnamon estate during the Dutch era and later became a rubber plantation under British rule. In 1948, the estate's tiny house was rented out to the local tax collector. Then, in 1949, Geoffrey Bawa, a newly qualified lawyer, purchased it intending to convert it into a weekend house and create a tropical version of a European Renaissance garden.

Bawa named the estate Lunuganga, which means Salt River, in Sinhala, and after realizing his lack of architectural knowledge, he returned to England to study architecture. After qualifying as an architect, he returned to Ceylon in 1958 and joined the architectural practice of Edwards, Reid, and Beggs.

Over the next forty years, Bawa continued to develop the house and gardens at Lunuganga until his death in May 2003. His ashes were buried on the estate's Cinnamon Hill. The house and gardens feature works by artists such as Donald Friend and Laki Senanayake and artifacts from Asia and Europe.

Lunuganga Estate Design

Geoffrey Bawa's design for the Lunuganga Estate is a unique blend of modernist and traditional Sri Lankan design elements. The estate is set within a natural landscape of hills, lakes, and forests, and Bawa worked to create a design that seamlessly blended with this environment.

One of the most notable features of the estate is the series of themed gardens that Bawa created. Each Garden represents a different aspect of Sri Lankan culture and design, and they are arranged to make sense of discovery and exploration for visitors.

The Entrance Garden is the first garden visitors encounter, and it is designed to create a sense of arrival and transition from the outside world to the estate. The Garden features a large lawn surrounded by tall trees and shrubs and a small pond that reflects the surrounding greenery.

The Water Garden is located near the entrance, and it features a series of pools and fountains that create a tranquil and reflective space. The Garden is designed to represent the importance of water in Sri Lankan culture, and it is surrounded by lush tropical foliage.

The Italian Garden is a more formal space, with symmetrical paths and manicured lawns. It is designed to reflect Bawa's travels to Italy, where he studied classical design and architecture.

The Butterfly Garden is a colourful and whimsical space filled with flowering plants and shrubs that attract butterflies and other pollinators. The Garden represents the importance of nature and biodiversity in Sri Lankan culture.

The Spice Garden is another themed garden featuring a collection of plants and herbs used in Sri Lankan cuisine and medicine. The Garden is designed to educate visitors about the importance of spices and herbs in Sri Lankan culture, and it includes a small pond and waterfall.

In addition to the themed gardens, the Lunuganga Estate also includes several buildings that reflect Bawa's unique style of architecture. The main house is a colonial-era bungalow renovated and adapted to Bawa's modernist design principles. The guest house and library are newer buildings designed and built by Bawa to complement the main house and blend with the surrounding landscape.

Overall, the Lunuganga Estate is a masterful example of how modernist design principles can be blended with traditional design elements to create a unique and harmonious space.

The Importance of Lunuganga Estate in the World of Architecture

The Lunuganga Estate is an important and influential work of architecture and landscape design in Sri Lanka and worldwide. The estate is considered a masterpiece of tropical modernism, and it has significantly impacted the field of architecture and design.

Geoffrey Bawa's design for the estate reflects his unique philosophy of architecture, which emphasized the importance of blending modernist design principles with traditional Sri Lankan design elements. In addition, Bawa believed that buildings and landscapes should be designed to complement and enhance their natural surroundings, and this philosophy is evident throughout the Lunuganga Estate.

Bawa's design for the estate has influenced generations of architects and designers, both in Sri Lanka and abroad. His approach to design, which emphasizes simplicity, elegance, and harmony with nature, has profoundly impacted the field of architecture and design. Moreover, it continues to inspire new generations of designers and architects.

The Lunuganga Estate is also significant because it represents a departure from the colonial-era architecture and design that dominated Sri Lanka before Bawa's work. Instead, Bawa's design for the estate reflects a new, independent approach to architecture and design, one that is rooted in Sri Lankan culture and identity.

In addition to its architectural and design significance, the Lunuganga Estate is an important cultural and historical landmark. It is a testament to Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage and the unique vision of one of the country's most celebrated architects.

Today, the Lunuganga Estate continues to inspire and educate visitors worldwide. It is a living example of the power of architecture and design to create spaces that are both beautiful and functional, and it is a testament to the enduring legacy of Geoffrey Bawa and his unique vision.

Visiting Lunuganga Estate

Visiting the Lunuganga Estate is an unforgettable experience for anyone interested in architecture, design, and Sri Lankan culture. The estate is located in Bentota, in the southern province of Sri Lanka, and it is easily accessible by car or public transport.

Visitors to the estate can take a guided tour of the property, including the main house, gardens, and other buildings. The tour is led by knowledgeable guides who provide insight into the history and significance of the estate, as well as Geoffrey Bawa's design philosophy and approach.

The main house, originally built in the 1930s and expanded over the years, is a prime example of Bawa's unique approach to architecture. The house combines modernist design elements and traditional Sri Lankan design with open-air courtyards, verandas, and other features that reflect Bawa's emphasis on blending buildings and landscapes.

The gardens at the Lunuganga Estate are equally impressive, and they provide visitors with a stunning array of tropical plants, trees, and other flora. The gardens were designed by Bawa himself, reflecting his belief that buildings and landscapes should be prepared to complement and enhance one another.

Visitors to the Lunuganga Estate can also explore other buildings on the property, including a guesthouse, studio, and other structures that showcase Bawa's unique design approach. In addition, the estate hosts a range of cultural and educational events throughout the year, including lectures, exhibitions, and workshops.

A guided tour is highly recommended if you're interested in exploring the Lunuganga Estate gardens in depth. The tours are available daily at 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. and are open to visitors worldwide.

The tour costs USD 15 for foreign visitors, LKR 3,000 for locals, and LKR 500 for local students. Payment can be made in cash or by credit/debit card in USD or LKR. Children under the age of 7 can enter for free.

No prior reservation is required for the garden tour. However, if you're interested in arranging a group visit, contact the estate via e-mail at [email protected].

Private tours with a Geoffrey Bawa Trust curator can be set up (if available) for people who want a more personalized experience. A private tour costs USD 500, while an expedition led by Channa Daswatte, the chairperson, is USD 750.

A tour of the Lunuganga Estate Gardens is a must-do activity for anyone interested in Sri Lankan culture, architecture, and design. The estate is a real gem because of its beautiful scenery, unique architecture, and long history. It continues to inspire and teach people from all over the world who come to see it.


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