Experience the marvels of Bawa Architecture with our Lunuganga and Brief Garden Tour


The homes of Geoffrey Bawa and his brother Bevis Bawa is a grand legacy to the talents of these two gentlemen

Geoffrey Bawa is known as the greatest architect that Sri Lanka ever produced. His brother Bevis Bawa, though not as famous was another architect who had a view for creating unique building designs. These two eccentric brothers create wonderfully idiosyncratic gardens an hour’s distance apart on an enchanted island off the tip of India. Sibling rivalry? Perhaps. The results: spectacular.

We visited both gardens recently, unprepared not only for their beauty and originality but for the distinctive nature of the two men’s designs, each as revealing as diary entries. The brothers, brilliant in their own ways and as different from one another as their gardens, are gone. But here, in vernal splendor, the two documents of their lives bloom on.

Lunuganga, A Treat by the River

Geoffrey began his garden, called Lunuganga, in the late 1940s. Sited on a former rubber plantation, its main feature is a large lake at the bottom of a steep hill. The English landscape movement heavily influenced his plan. Wide swathes of lawn stretch toward the lake from the original house (now a hotel), dotted with Frisian cows (Geoffrey loved black and white everywhere and adored Dalmatian dogs), water gardens, and miniature rice paddies. A crenelated folly, prettily painted guest bungalows, and artfully placed statuary add to the English feel.

Geoffrey above all had no doubts about the relationship between a designer and his garden. His philosophy was dedicated to the notion of man’s domination over nature; he moved water, hills, and trees without hesitation. “The long view to the south ended with the temple,” Geoffrey wrote, “but in the middle distance was a ridge with a splendid ancient moonamal tree, and when I placed a large Chinese jar under it, the hand of man was established in this middle distance.” Yet Geoffrey’s genius was to create a landscape so naturalistic that it could hardly be identified as man-made. Ondaatje tells the story of a visitor to Lunuganga exclaiming, “But Mr. Bawa, wouldn’t this be a lovely place to turn into a garden?” Geoffrey said this was probably the best compliment he ever received.


Brief Garden, Be Surrounded by Greenery

Even though he loved architecture he went into service in the army. As a war hero of World War 2, he even received war medals for his service. Bevis didn’t give up on what he loved while serving the army so he began making a garden and developing the estate bungalow and devotedly tended to the family rubber plantation known as the Brief Estate. When he retired he consequently made the estate his own home and filled it with many unique styles of landscaping. He was so good with his unique technique that embassies, private companies, and houses soon reached out with the hope of landscaping their gardens into paradise. Even though he did not have a formal education in landscape architecture, Bevis Bawa was able to make his mark on our history.

Bawa garden is known to be the most magnificently landscaped garden one could lay eyes upon. Bevis used a combination of art, architecture, and sculptures to make a modern work of art. You would find doors that led to different parts of the garden, stairways, Roman art structures, and ponds. Truly, I wonder if Alice got lost in this tropical wonderland. Our Lunuganga and Brief Garden Tour will make sure that you will taste the best of the amazing  Bawa creations in Sri Lanka.

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