Sri Lanka boasts the works of famous Architect Geoffrey Bawa. I had heard of him in college, but barely knew anything about his work or styles. I definitely did not know that he had a brother who was a landscape architect who designed his own home on a 5 acre estate near Bentota that he's named 'Brief'.
Two brothers, the offspring of Sri Lanka's elite society, initially educated for non-design careers but both of them have created masterpieces; each an obvious imprint of their personalities.
I am glad I visited this before Geoffrey Bawa's estate 'Lunuganga'. Although in overview, I preferred the grandeur of Lunuganga, Bevis Bawa's approach to create an intimate design is far more relatable. As soon as I entered the iron gate with those Narnian stone gate posts and through the archway to ring that bell to announce our arrival, I was instantly a wide-eyed nine year old again.
We began our walk through the gardens first. I am not exaggerating when I say that I felt like Mary Lennox when she first discovered the secret garden. Little paths winding almost unnoticed through the trees and shrubbery, making acute turns, up and down staircases, opening up unexpectedly into little clearings of refuge as if to say 'No, you are not lost. You were meant to find this'.
I am so glad this wasn't a guided tour. It would have totally cut out the fun of discovery. The walk through the gardens was not meant to be hurried through. We had to slowly meander through this maze otherwise we may have missed spotting the stone frog and other little sculptures perfectly camouflaged in the foliage, the turtle shaped fountain spout, the earthen pots collecting rainwater from the trees above them, the little circular ponds and stone slabs for seating, stone mandalas, and of course those huge stone ball newel caps at the ends of the stairs; but those were not hard to miss!
The seemingly unruly garden design is obviously intentional. It seems as if it is an attempt to bring a human scale and understanding into the expanse of a dense forest of rubber and cannon ball trees. I especially loved how natural patterns were used in the man-made constructions. The stepping stones, table tops, walls and tiles all imprinted with leaves and other things from the garden.
And then, suddenly through the maze of staircases and terraced lawns we reached the bottom of a long stretch of tiered waterway leading up the house so perfectly framed by the bamboo thicket.