Lunuganga

Geoffrey Bawa commemoration week was from the 24th to the 31st of May 2009. I have been dying to see his country estate in Bentota for as long as I can remember, so when a friend sent me a mail asking whether I would like to drive down there with her I could barely contain myself. I asked along another friend of mine as well.

The three of us set off at around 9 in the morning, hoping to get there for the 11am garden tour. I was hoping to get there in just over an hour but I guess there had to be yet another obstacle before getting to Lunuganga. We finally rolled up to the gates at 11.30, no thanks to all the patriots from the south, who had decided to have victory celebrations on the streets of every town from Colombo to Galle. Its not that I’m unpatriotic, I simply think that peace has come at too great a cost, and we are far from achieving true peace, so why all the celebrations!!!

Anyway everything was quickly forgotten once the gates were opened and we walked into the property. We certainly entered another world in a different time and place. The whole place was so calm and quiet, with just the sound of the wind quietly passing through the Sal trees. The winding driveway suddenly opened up to a glimpse of manicured lawns which quickly disappeared to reveal yet another gate which opens onto the main house.

We were lucky that the architect meant to give the tour was late as well, so we were asked to wonder around close to the main house. I was hoping against all hope that their wouldn’t be too many people wondering around, cause the beauty of the place would be lost. I now understand why Geoffrey Bawa liked seclusion. Having been there for only a few minutes, I was thinking to myself that here was a place you really didn’t need human contact. The gardens were enough.

The property is broken into three levels; the upper level, middle walk and the broad walk. The estate used to be a rubber estate and some of the original rubber trees still remain, but most have been replaced by other local trees such as Cinnamon, Frangipani, Sal and Kithul just to name a few. The view of the property varies depending on which level you are on, which is quite amazing.

What makes the gardens so mystical is that its wild and tame at the same time. When you walk through the gardens, at one point your in this untamed area where there is moss on the walls and long grass, and the next instance your walking in a manicured garden which spread out at far as your eyes can see. The estate is completely surrounded by water. The gardens for most parts of the year are an artists retreat and closed to the public although the official website defers in this view.

The property used to only have the Main House initially but a guest room was built, now called the glass house. A little distance away from the glass house is another building (the name eludes me), where Geoffrey Bawa used to have his breakfast because it was cooler in the mornings. During lunch time he used to move to the centre courtyard of the upper level and then back to the main house in the evening. Its said he moved around according to the movements of the sun. Later another three buildings were added; the Gallery (where he worked), the Cinnamon Hill house and the Last House.

The Cinnamon Hill house is built towards the back of the property but its views are simply stunning. You get a view of the neighbouring properties on the other side of the lake but having a good rapport with his neighbours, it seems he convinced them against ruining his view, thus their properties are almost hidden amongst the trees and thick foliage. Marvellous I say. If all neighbours nowadays could be so considerate. 🙂

A short walk down from the Cinnamon Hill house brings you to a large pot and a tree in the middle of the lawn. Mr. Bawa’s ashes lay a few feet away from this. We were told that there used to be a tree in the same place that mysterious became sick not long after Mr. Bawa suffered from a stroke. The tree that is now there is a new one which was planted after Mr. Bawa’s death.

The most intriguing bit of the estate for me was the road that runs right in the middle of the large lawn. When you first look at it, it looks like a hedge which looks a bit out of place but a way of breaking your view or focusing your view into smaller sections instead of one large image. When you pass the hedge by a side corridor which used to house the cows and you look out of the window, that’s when you realise what an ingenious idea it is to conceal an unwanted road which lies about 10 feet below the corridor.

A common feature of the property is the fact that no building is isolated. Everything is connected in some way with the use of steps, trees, grass or stepping stones etc.

Lunuganga was everything I imagined it to be but with delightful little surprises as expected from the legendary Mr. Bawa. I cant wait to go back to explore more of the property and hear more fascinating stories.

You can find more information regarding accomodation and tours on http://www.geoffreybawa.com 

Entrance to propertyupper level courtyardthird buildingthe hidden roadthe glass houseDSC00673DSC00675the broad walkfield of potsDSC00697view from cinnamon hill housethe main housethe last houseDSC00713

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Comments
3 Responses to “Lunuganga”
  1. u4j10 says:

    Truely an amazing place ….:-)

  2. Harumi says:

    Hello princess! you’ve expressed about the place so vividly and interestingly.. I’ve already heard and researched about him, even visited his website for a project, but didn’t know much about this place.. would love to visit there sometime.

    Thanks for sharing. ^__^

  3. Dulan says:

    Never been to Lunuganga – but after this it’s earned a top place in my list of places to go!

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