Monday, November 22, 2010

Finding Lunuganga

One of the most interesting personalities I’ve met here in Sri Lanka is Geoffrey Bawa.  I’ve not personally met the guy and I will never do at least in this worldly life.  But I’ve met him in quite a few of his works.  One is the structure that houses Paradise Road’s Gallery Café, another is his own Colombo abode at #11 33rd Lane and now his famed estate Lunuganga (or Salt Garden). 

Lunuganga is in Bentota, around 2.5 hours drive south of Colombo (on the way to Galle).  It used to be a rubber plantation.  Upon returning from the UK, Mr. Bawa bought the land.  The garden was his architectural crib – it consumed him and transformed him from a lawyer to “one of the most important Asian architects of the 20th century (Lunuganga Primer).”  It became my objective to set foot in the bed of Bawa’s transformation.  One because truly, the estate is magnificent.  And two, I wanted to be where it all began.

Lunuganga is hard to find.  There are no signages going to the place.  The roads are fit for just one car.  And unpaved.  But it was worth the trip.

Upon entering the inner gate we were welcomed by the most amazing vista I’ve ever seen in my (approximately) 2 months in Sri Lanka.  

The architecture of the house and its rooms (there are quite a few scattered around the estate) is reminiscent of his own Colombo abode.  Maybe it was his way of bringing his Lunuganga to his everyday life?

But Bawa also brought the Italian Renaissance garden to the tropics as that was his main inspiration for the design of the place.  It was also a renaissance of sorts as aside from Bawa’s creation, his many artist friends also contributed interesting pieces and sculptures.

Aside from its sheer beauty, Lunuganga was also a smart creation.  It rested upon two sides of a national road (albeit a small one at that).  Bawa connected the two sides by a bridge – a bridge that quite naturally just rested straddling on either side to make one big estate.  Without having to bulldoze through the national road.

Aside from being such an architectural wonder, Lunuganga for me is a beautiful symbol of man’s ability to make himself who he wants to be and at the same time making the world a more beautiful place.  Who would have thought that a lawyer could be an architect?  To me they are two totally different disciplines.  Yet Bawa made the leap.  And that resonated with where I am now.  I am in my own Lunuganga, a beautiful cradle of transformation.  I too can make that leap.  I too can be unbounded from the kind of person who used to define me with who I want to be.  Right now, in my own terms.  I can make an abandoned rubber plantation into a beautiful Italian Renaissance garden.  And more…

So Lunuganga is my inspiration to carry on in my own rollercoaster of a journey of transformation.  I guess that’s the beautiful part of leaving your old life behind.  Because you have a big beautiful world to create and re-create.

How about you, have you found your Lunuganga?

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