The Anantara Kalutara Resort is a gem of a design set in the heart of Sri Lanka, conceived by Late Ar. Geoffrey Bawa and completed by Ar. Channa Daswatte of MICD Architects, that seamlessly blends the island’s tropical beauty and rich culture
Sri Lanka is home to a new tourist haven, the Anantara Kalutara Resort. The enigmatic architecture, set in an idyllic location, was realised by late architect Geoffrey Bawa. The resort’s design complements and highlights the unique location between the Indian Ocean and Kalu Ganga with a river and lagoon frontage.
The renowned architect Bawa was commissioned by a former pioneer in Sri Lanka Tourism in the year 1995 to design a hotel on a site between the estuary of the Kalu Ganga and the Indian Ocean. The work on this project was discontinued in the late 1995 amidst political unrest and war in the North Sri Lanka. The project lay dormant which was compounded by the architect being struck down by an illness in 1998 and eventually passing away in 2003.
Channa Daswatte from MICD Associates, who previously worked for Bawa, was appointed to take over the project as a lead architect. In many ways the hotel conforms to the Bawa ideals of non-air-conditioned spaces that open onto beautiful waterscapes, with only the essential spaces enclosed and tucked away out of necessity.
Strikingly simple, the main building has a Dutch colonial style with an impressive soaring gable roof of terracotta half-round clay tiles. An iconic design feature of the hotel, the high ceiling and free-flowing space allows a breeze to circulate in the vast reception, which overlooks the lagoon of the Kalu Ganga Estuary, creating an expansive sense of freedom on arrival.
The guests arrive at a central courtyard and pass through the east-west wing of the wall to the vast soaring roof of the reception lounge. The creative nod to Sri Lankan design, by MICD interior designer Roshan Rajapaksha, is depicted in the large Batik wall hangings behind the reception area and set the tone for the colours of the space.
The polished cement floors and terracotta coloured walls with colonial inspired Sri Lankan furniture complete the picture. The reception chandelier is made from galvanised powder coated steel, and is inspired by the torches carried during the Kandy Esala Perahera, a grand Buddhist festival in the country. This design inspiration applies to the cast aluminium torch lamps found elsewhere around the resort, such as the all-day dining restaurant Olu, which also features a splendid mural that is the creation of the renowned artist and architect Adil Writer.
Anantara Spa’s treatment rooms are accessed through thickly planted courtyards centred on a large pool court with relaxation pavilions inspired by traditional ambalamas or wayside resting places seen in and around Sri Lanka. The spa’s temple ceiling panels depict the magnificent mural paintings on the ceilings in the Dambulla and Mulkirigala rock cave temples and treatment rooms feature batiks, from Aluwihare Cooperative that put Sri Lankan traditional arts and crafts on the world map.
The interior design throughout the complex is mostly inspired by Sri Lankan Colonial style with furniture being either copied from traditional pieces or inspired by them. Bawa’s very particular style lives on in the library where many pieces either designed by or used by him are put together to create a particularly ‘Bawa style’ interior. Drawings from his archive and some of his favourite designs in Batik done by his friends Ena de Silva and the textile designer Barbara Sansoni are displayed there.
The interiors of the 141 luxury guest rooms, suites and pool villas have been designed by DDN Design architect, Dipika Dharmadasa. A sliding panel crafted from Sri Lankan teak separates the bathroom and the bedroom in the Ocean View and Lagoon Views rooms. The lotus motifs from the Embekke Devalaya temple are a recurring motif in the rooms. The Anantara Suite depicts the white line drawings of lotus seed, hand-drawn by a local artist.
In all, the Anantara Kalutara is in many ways a final completion of a Geoffrey Bawa project, albeit with the magical touch of one of his protégées. It does however bring to light another one of his brilliant architectural ideas – exploring architectural space both from an aesthetic and functional perspective.