Sri Lanka Estates: A Friend To Brief and Lunuganga
One of Asia’s most renowned architects of the 20th century was Geoffrey Bawa, whose Modernist style was seen as iconoclastically innovative when this Sri Lankan visionary began his career. By the end of it, he had professional disciples across the continent endeavouring to incorporate the Bawa style into their own projects.
Geoffrey Bawa’s country home, an estate known as Lunuganga, is today protected and managed by the Geoffrey Bawa Foundation. After purchasing a rundown rubber plantation in the 1920s, Bawa set about creating a private world of aesthetic beauty in the construction of his home, in the outbuildings accompanying it, and in the landscaped lawns and gardens surrounding the buildings. The result was superb and has been, thankfully, preserved for visitors to appreciate the result of many years of work.
Similarly impressive is Brief, the estate of Geoffrey Bawa’s older brother, Bevis. More so than working in his official profession as a lawyer, Bevis Bawa excelled at being a bon vivant who loved nothing more than a good time, as evidenced by a portrait showing him lounging by the pool, surrounded not by greenery but but a bevy of young men. Australian artist Donald Friend, more famous for his association with the island of Bali, spent more than five years in Sri Lanka as a guest of Bevis Bawa, who took great pleasure in Friend’s artistic collaborations in the gardens of Brief, whose odd name can be attributed to Bevis Bawa’s occupation. The thoughtfully landscaped gardens of Brief are full of unexpected artworks celebrating the beauty of the male physique, a classic subject for artists since time immemorial. Various statues are found throughout the extensive gardens which subdivide the estate into themed areas landscaped to perfection to this day by a dedicated staff. Upon his death, Bevis Bawa willed his home to Brief’s head gardener, who remains to this day the owner of the still-private estate. At Brief, visitors can enter the house and gain a deeper understanding of the owner and the privileges of Sri Lankan society in the mid-20th century.
Brief and Lunuganga, only 12 kilometres apart, are both located near Bentota. These two properties together make a perfect daytrip from Colombo, especially for cruise ship passengers who want to do something unique during their day in port. For full immersion into the serenity and beauty of Lunuganga, it is possible to stay overnight in one of several guestrooms located discreetly in different parts of the property. Entry to the main house is possible only for in-house guests, which is reason enough to spend a night here.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board website provides information about Bentota and other areas where beautiful gardens can be visited.