Villa That Inspired Aman Resorts

Have you heard of the late Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa?

Ever since I read somewhere that his work inspired the founder of Aman Resorts and many other tropical resorts, I had wanted to visit his architecture.

My dream came true when we spent our Christmas/ New Year holiday in Sri Lanka.


Lunuganga, a rubber plantation he converted to his country estate in the south of Sri Lanka, was the testing ground where he experimented his ideas.

As I strolled among tropical trees and rice paddies in the property, I realised it is not so much architecture that he experimented with. It is the sense of space, the magic of the space that he experimented with.

First of all, the setting is spectacular.

The main house sits at the top of the hill overlooking a large river flowing into the Indian Ocean. The large garden is carefully landscaped in such a way that it’s a microcosm of its surroundings. There are bamboo forests, orchards, rice paddies, a platform by the river where crocodiles come to sunbathe (?!).

Bawa used to eat breakfast in one corner of the garden, had an afternoon snooze in another, and viewed the sunset at another location. Each location had a table, chairs and bells to summon a servant. Each bell has different sound so the servant can respond to that location.

Buildings are dotted around the estate and most have an outdoor room and the boundary of indoor and outdoor is blurred. The interior is an eclectic mix of antiques, art, vintage and locally crafted furniture. The colour palette is restrained – mostly monochrome and wood.

Kengo Kuma said that for Bawa, buildings must have been a distraction from their surroundings. He therefore created architecture that forms an integral part of the landscape.

Then, I came to another realisation. This is very similar to how the Japanese have traditionally approached architecture for a thousand years. Traditional Japanese architecture in general is sparsely decorated and built to maximise the enjoyment of natural surroundings and views.

Geoffrey Bawa designed the intangible – atmosphere, experience – which appeals to all the senses. This has become my goal.

You can book to stay in Lunuganga through .

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