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Architecture in Kalutara

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by Catalina Forbes (subscribe)
Catalina Forbes is a travel writer who bases her content on many thrilling escapades experienced across the world.
Published May 9th 2018
Kalutara is a land of many wonders, both man-made and natural. Where man-made is concerned, there are many prized examples that cover everything from gardens to luxury resorts.

Richmond Castle

richmond castle kalutara
The grandeur of the Richmond Castle | Photo by @insanophobia

This beautiful Edwardian mansion was constructed by a wealthy local businessman who based the design of it on a certain royal residence situated in India. It was constructed during the early 20th century, sometime between 1900 and 1910. The man who built it, Don Arthur Siriwardena, studied in Britain and was bestowed a high position after completing his education.

The construction of the mansion can easily be considered an act of defiance, since Arthur's classmate, an Indian prince, believed that the Ceylonese weren't capable of building lush mansions like their Indian counterparts. He then visited his classmate with two highly capable architects who were secretly mapping out plans inspired by the castle.

Upon completion, Richmond Castle boasted sixteen rooms scattered across two floors. All the materials were sourced from abroad. The tiles were shipped from Italy, while the teak was imported from Burma. Even the window-panes, which were beautifully decorated to showcase designs based on grape-vines, were sourced from Scotland.

Anantara Kalutara Resort

geoffrey bawa hotels
Photo : Anantara Kalutara Resort

One of the most famous Sri Lankans that ever lived was Geoffrey Bawa, he pioneered the tropical modernism concept that involved exquisite, well-ventilated structures that complement their natural surroundings. During his final years, he was commissioned to construct a resort between the Indian Ocean and the estuary of the Kalu Ganga.

Unfortunately, Bawa passed away before realising his vision and the project lay undeveloped for many years until one of his protégés embarked on a quest to finish what Geoffrey Bawa began, and it is currently among the best hotels in Kalutara. The hallmark of this hotel is the massive main building which features the arrival hall, upstairs bar, and lobby lounge.

The architecture of this place is truly astonishing and if you're a fan of architecture, this is definitely a place worth checking out.


lunuganga estate
The house of Geoffrey Bawa | Photo Credit: Ravindra Amladi

Since we're on the topic of Kalutara and Geoffrey Bawa, the Lunuganga Estate is definitely something worthy of mention. This was the country home of Geoffrey Bawa and what sparked his journey into architecture.

After becoming a barrister in England and then travelling around the world, Bawa returned to Sri Lanka where he eventually bought an abandoned rubber estate with the intention to transform it into an Italian garden.

Upon commencing work on this endeavour he realised that he lacked the technical knowledge to carry out his intentions, so he eventually ended up returning to England to enrol as a student in London's Architectural Association.

He worked on the Lunuganga Estate throughout his life and transformed it into a beautiful landscape of wondrous creations by himself and those close to him, such as artist Donald Friend. Upon visiting the Lunuganga estate you can also discover a wide range of artefacts that were collected by Geoffrey Bawa throughout the various travels he undertook during his lifetime.

Brief Garden

brief garden bentota
Lush greenery is all around | Photo Credit: Dulith Kasun @dulithk

Geoffrey's older brother, Bevis Bawa was also quite famous in his own right and developed his own gorgeously landscaped estate. Situated not too far off from the Lunuganga Estate are the Brief Gardens which are a spectacular display of landscaping ability. The rubber estate that eventually became the Brief Gardens was once owned by his father, and he eventually inherited it after he left the army.

Following his retirement he began working on the landscape of the estate, extending the gardens and adding various works of his own creation. As time went on the gardens began to garner significant popularity, and Bevis Bawa's services were procured by various entities and he went on to landscape many private houses, buildings and even embassies throughout Colombo.
Even today, the sheer beauty of the Brief Gardens attracts countless visitors and is featured prominently on websites.

There's an explosion of artistic items to be experienced at the Brief Gardens, and these include everything from erotic sculptures to astonishing murals depicting Sri Lankan life.

The gardens have also been graced by some A-list visitors throughout the ages, including Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, and Agatha Christie. Famous Australian artist Donald Friend once travelled there to spend a week and ended up staying for six years.

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Why? You should visit Kalutara because it boasts not only the pristine beaches but also for it's natural, cultural and architectural attractions as well.
Where: Kalutara District
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