Shri Lanka — the Creative Island
Shri Lanka came as a complete revelation. What do you usually expect from a tropical island? Beautiful beaches, hotels, some old temples. We came totally unprepared for what we discovered. Shri Lanka is the land where creativity flourishes in various different aspects.
This is a paradise, made by the sensibility of one man, created by his patience and love. From the book “Bawa the Shri Lanka Gardens”
First revelation was the legacy of brothers Bevis and Geoffrey Bawa, both architects and landscape designers. Yes, we heard about them before, but the reality is so much more subtle and intriguing. Both lived long lives and worked for the most part of the XXth century.
I am more fascinated with Bevis Bawa, because he was an amateur both in architecture and in landscape design. But the world he created around him was and still is a paradise. You can visit his house and the garden he created, The Brief.
It’s a whole universe, his own island he built for himself. A man is an island if you think about it, it’s how one distinguishes oneself from others.
Nature seemed to have softly guided Bevis Bawa to creating this haven — Dutch legacy blends with clean lines of modernism. My favorite detail is the print of giant tropical leafs on the concrete tops of coffee tables and garden tiles.
The overall feeling is reminiscent of what you experience in the South of France, in particular, at Villa Santo Sospiro with murals by Cocteau, and in the Cap Moderne museum of Le Corbusier.
Bevis’s brother, Geoffrey Bawa was a professional architect with a degree from Cambridge and a flourishing local practice.
The sheer list of his buildings is impressive, some of them are open for visit. You can even plan your Shri Lanka trip staying only in his houses, many of them are now hotels. It’s possible to stay in his very own house in Colombo, and in his country retreat Lunuganga.
He is considered the father of tropical modernism style. His creations are esthetically nurturing, water plays a big role in landscape design. Everything is light and cozy, and it’s all about paying homage to nature.
Nature is very generous in Shri Lanka. For the first time I saw how cinnamon is grown, and every part of the plant offers itself for practical and tasty use. How natural rubber is extracted from the trees.
For the first time I saw cocoa beans growing, the giant jack fruit. Even coconuts feel specially tasty here. You feel so grateful to the nature for this opportunity of coming in direct contact with its beauty and variety. And when a man captures this feeling and multiplied it in his/her creations, this just feels so right. Adds to the beauty. Recreates it. Gives it back to the world.
Bawas continue to inspire — we found out that several trendy shops, boutique hotels and restaurants belong to a man who built his brand inspired by Bawa. He now lives in part of Geoffrey Bawa’s house in Colombo, and has a restaurant in former Bawa architect office. Paradise road. You can read about Shanth Fernando in his interview
Food is another creative side of Shri Lanka. It stands out. Living in India you get spoiled with good food but here every day was a treat — from world famous Ministry of Crab in Colombo to the quiet and empty gourmet restaurant at Saman Villa in Bentota. I can’t remember a trip where I had excellent food every single day with no exception.
And we haven’t even started to discover the ancient temples in the mountainous central area of the island — the obvious tourist places. Bevis and Geoffry Bawa were inspired by the ancient Buddhist monasteries’ gardens. We look forward to new discoveries waiting to be inspired and surprised.