The homes of Geoffrey Bawa and Bevis Bawa in Sri Lanka

The homes of Geoffrey Bawa and Bevis Bawa in Sri Lanka

Travelife Magazine Publisher Christine Cunanan

The beautiful homes of Geoffrey Bawa and his brother Bevis in Sri Lanka should be on the bucketlist of lovers of architecture and design. Over several trips to Sri Lanka, I became well acquainted with the works of Geoffrey. He is the most revered architect and creative visionary in South Asia for a certain generation. Even today, I don’t think a younger talent has emerged to rival his claim to fame. And definitely not his genius.

Paradise Cafe in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Geoffrey Bawa’s former studio is now a fashionable hangout in Colombo called Paradise Cafe. The owner told me that Bawa’s desk was once placed here, where cakes are now displayed on a table.

Being a lover of the arts and all things beautiful, I try to visit as many of Geoffrey Bawa’s masterpieces as possible whenever I visit Sri Lanka. Ground Zero is perhaps his former office and design studio at Paradise Road The Gallery Cafe, which is now a fashionable cafe and shop for expatriates, well-heeled locals and tourists. The food is lovely and the contemporary arts and crafts on sale are some of the best quality in Sri Lanka.


Geoffrey Bawa’s hotels and private residences remain timeless classics even today.

The Heritance Kandalama Hotel in Dambulla, just a few kilometers from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sigirya, is the crowning jewel. I’ve stayed so many times that I’ve lost count. The hotel is rather tired but I never tire of staying here simply for the effortless design and the views.

But Bawa was a prolific artist and his works can be seen all over Sri Lanka. I also like the Jetwing Lighthouse in Galle, which is positioned perfectly by a raging sea along a rocky beach. Meanwhile the Heritance Ahungalla is also along the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.


The Bawa hotels are some of the loveliest of their time. Fortunately, many of them are still well maintained as luxury lodgings even today. Heritance Kandalama is probably the most well-known of the “Geoffrey Bawa Hotels” but Lununganga is the most authentic, in my opinion.

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Lununganga was Bawa’s own beloved private estate. It continuously evolved and changed as Geoffrey never stopped experimenting with his country home until he died in 1998. Today the estate serves as one of the foremost sources of architectural inspiration in Sri Lanka.

It’s located in a remote area between Colombo and Galle, and once it was a hotel that left much to be desired. It accepted paying guests but it had erratic operating hours. The staff were sometimes there and other times not. In spite of the lack of quality control, it was a must visit even then. After all, this was Geoffrey Bawa’s own masterpiece for himself.

Over the years, for instance, I’d driven over from Galle several times, through narrow roads and amongst rice fields, only to find Lununganga closed to visitors even if the website indicated it was open. Several times, the gate was padlocked — perhaps because of a lack of guests.


Fortunately those days are over. Lununganga is now being run by Teardrop Hotels, a luxury Sri Lankan hotel group. So today guests can stay in this quaint home filled with antiques above a misty hill, and I imagine it is way better maintained than in the past.

I’m really happy about this because this beautiful place really needed a professional management company to bring it to full potential. I’m so looking forward to my next visit under new management.

The gardens of Lununganga, home of Geoffrey Bawa in Sri
One corner of the massive gardens of Lununganga

Some say that the Lununganga gardens came into existence because of the sibling rivalry between Geoffrey and his brother Bevis. Bevis, the less famous of the two, had been developing the gardens of his own estate since 1929. So he actually had a headstart over Geoffrey as far as their personal properties were concerned.

In the 1940s, Geoffrey eventually decided to buy a property bigger than his brother’s along the Bentota river to cultivate a garden.

These gardens are not too far from each other. And the contrasting works of garden art by these two very different brothers offer a most stimulating daytrip from Colombo or Galle.




Sri Lankans who keep abreast of their country’s culture and arts are well aware of the competitive relationship between Geoffrey Bawa and Bevis Bawa. This has manifested even in their homes long after both have departed this world. Lununganga is famous as Geoffrey Bawa’s home. However, The Brief, which was the home of Bevis, a landscape architect, is also a favorite of design lovers. It is different in style but equally compelling.

The Brief, home of Bevis Bawa in Sri Lanka
The Brief in Sri Lanka


Bevis Bawa’s beautiful property was named to commemorate their father’s purchase of this land after a triumphant legal brief. It is a reflection of his temperament. The estate is wild and alive with its jungle pathways and exotic plants.

Bevis also dabbled in the arts. His vast and eclectic collection of artworks and homo-erotic sculptures in his home and gardens that are still on display even today.

Whenever I visit The Brief, I just want to sit in the gardens imagining all the interesting house parties that took place here, with an eclectic array of visitors from all over the world. And, yes, it’s true. Both Lununganga and The Brief are uniquely beautiful that these two need not compete with each other. You should visit both if you have time.

Read more stories about the best places for design lovers in Sri Lanka and also about one of the most unique places to stay in Spain in Travelife Magazine.

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