Lunuganga – Geoffrey Bawa’s personal tropical Eden. Credit: Frits Meyst
The beautiful island of Sri Lanka abounds with influences of the architect Geoffrey Bawa who designed many buildings on the island. He was the pioneer of the global movement ‘Tropical Modernism’ which blended modernist architecture with nature while adapting to hot, humid tropical conditions. However, it is his love of using antique Dutch colonial, furniture, in his residential projects and personal properties that makes us such great fans.
Geoffrey Bawa 1919-2003. Credit: David Robson
Geoffrey Bawa was born into an affluent family and attended Cambridge University. It was here where his love for collecting antiques really began. On his return to Sri Lanka, he was particularly interested in furniture produced by local craftsmen in the European style which was established during the colonial era. In his residential properties he blended antique furniture and art with modern furniture and art and this became the hallmark of Bawa’s eclectic signature style
Lunuganga is now a country house boutique hotel. Credit: Teardrop Hotels
In the words of the Lunuganga Trust “No place reveals the soul of Geoffrey Bawa, the acclaimed Sri Lankan architect, better than his country home, Lunuganga.” It was once a derelict rubber estate near the coast at Bentota but Bawa turned it into his personal, tropical Eden, with a myriad of lush gardens and terraces. The main bungalow, along with the other residential buildings on the estate, has been “preserved as they existed during the lifetime of the architect and are decorated with a resplendent mixture of antique and modern furniture, and traditional and contemporary art”. (The Lunuganga Trust). Each room throughout the estate is thoughtfully decorated and features beautiful examples of locally produced colonial furniture.
Stunning Interiors with Dutch Colonial Furniture at Horagolla Stables. Credit: Ashish Sahi
This is the country house of Sunethra Bandaranaike, the eldest daughter of former Prime Ministers S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Sirimavo Bandaranaike. It was a former stable on the family estate and was renovated in the 1980s by Geoffery Bawa. The stable hall itself became a double height living room, with a timber mezzanine and a long verandah runs along the length of the property. The interior is a treasure trove of predominately Dutch colonial furniture; from the pair of handsome chests on the veranda to the Indo-Dutch mahogany and ebony cupboards found throughout the home.
A restful area at the Heritance Ayurveda
Credit: Ashish Shah
Bawa worked with many local craftsmen, artists, sculptors and textile designers. He wanted to bring Sri Lankan culture into his work wherever possible as the history of the island was extremely important to him. This can be seen throughout his projects, residential and commercial. At the Neptune Hotel (now the Heritance Ayurveda) local artist and sculptor, Laki Senanayake created beautiful plaster reliefs of native trees and foliage.
Geoffrey Bawa’s long standing love for antiques can be seen in not only his personal residences but throughout his prolific portfolio of work. Colonial furniture, mainly Indo-Dutch furniture has a firm presence in almost every project. It is said that later in his career he even acquired antique pieces as payment for his architectural services.
Geoffrey Bawa mixed the old and the new, he broke the barriers between inside and outside and told the authentic story of Sri Lanka. If you would like to know more about Geoffrey Bawa visit the Geoffrey Bawa Trust.
If, like us, you just love this style then have a look at our Dutch Colonial Furniture.
A Dutch colonial cupboard in the entrance of a house designed by Bawa. Credit: Ashish Shah