Kandalama Hotel, Dambulla, 1991

The opportunity to build again came at the end of 1991 when Bawa was commissioned to design a hotel close to King Kasyapa’s rock citadel at Sigiriya. True to form, he rejected the proposed site and persuaded the clients to move the hotel some fifteen kilometers to the south to a rocky outcrop above the ancient Kandalama Tank. In its final design the 160-bedroom hotel is wrapped around the two sides of the rock with rooms facing across the tank towards Sigiriya and Dambulla. The two wings are connected by a cave-like corridor which runs through the rock from the hotel entrance to the main reception areas.

 

Houses

  • Claughton Guest House, Dickwella, 1984
  • de Soysa House, Colombo, 1985

During this period Bawa accepted relatively few commissions to design private houses. In 1984 he built the Claughton Guest House, a sedate pavilion on the cliffs above Tangalla Bay, and in 1985 he constructed a tower house in Colombo for his friends Cecil and Chloé de Soysa.

 

The Lighthouse Hotel, Galle, 1995

The Lighthouse Hotel is built on a rocky promontory to the north of the old Arab port of Galle which sits tightly between the main road and the sea.

 

The Blue Water Hotel, Wadduwa, 1997

Blue Water was Bawa’s last hotel and the last project which he supervised on site before his final illness struck. Here he returned to the rest house theme, but reinterpreted it on a grand scale with vast courtyards and endless vistas: an essay in stark but perfectly proportioned minimalism.

The Jayawardene House, Mirissa, 1997

The Jayawardene House was designed as a weekend retreat high on the red cliffs which frame the eastern end of Weligama Bay. The visitor climbs a narrow track from the busy main road and after a final twist discovers a breathtaking view across the bay framed by a grove of swaying coconut palms. Closer inspection reveals that the coconut trunks are harbouring a platoon of black columns and that a thin horizontal roof is floating amongst their fronds. A simple pleasure pavilion stands on a stepped plinth facing towards the place of the setting sun: a house stripped to its bare essentials.


Bawa’s use of a starkly expressed concrete frame and a flat roof is appropriate to its Dry-Zone location and the hotel seems to grow out of its site in way reminiscent of the earlier Polontalawa house. The concrete frame is used to support a second skin of timber sun breakers, which in turn support a screen of vegetation, while the flat roof has been turned into a tropical garden. The tectonic form makes it possible for the hotel to hug the shape of the ridge, so that its open sided corridors run alongside the cliff face. The materials used in the public spaces work with the large expanses of naked rock to convey a feeling of austere monumentality which seems to hark back to the lost palace Kasyapa.

The Jayakody House of 1993 is the work of an architect in his prime, designing with certainty to create a civilised retreat on a restricted site within a hostile city environment. The reception rooms open into small garden courts and have an almost subterranean quality while the dining room is partly lit from a blue-painted light shaft which acts as a ventilation stack for the groundfloor. The principle bedrooms are located on the first floor, each with its own private courtyard. Half of the second floor is given over to a large terrace which is partially sheltered by a high loggia. On the third floor there is a small swimming pool with an open terrace giving views across the city.

The sea is inhospitable – huge breakers roll in incessantly from the Indian Ocean – but the views are stunning. The base of the promontory is encased in rubble retaining walls which house the main entrance and services. A massive porte cochère leads past the reception desk to a vertical drum within which the main stair spirals upwards, its handrails formed by a swirling mass of Dutch and Sinhalese warriors sculpted by Bawa’s old friend Laki Senanayake. The lounges and restaurants carry memories of old rest houses and planters’ clubs while the furnishing of the terraces and verandas is solid and rugged to withstand the buffetings of the Monsoon.