TBT Stop 1: Heritance Kandalama

The Heritance Kandalama at Dambulla is a luxury 5-star property managed by the Atkins Spence group a microcosm of its surrounds and a hotel that offers noticeably the best of Sri Lanka. Overlooking the Kandalama lake, the hotel was designed by Geoffrey Bawa in the early 1990s, as a landmark project built in spite of political instability and the threat of a civil war in the region. The project was brave for its time, path-breaking in terms of innovation, spectacular in its concept and well thought of in its use. Today while serving its function brilliantly, serving up world-class hospitality, it merges seamlessly into its surrounds, fashioned by a leafy elevation that camouflages the building completely.


The hotel does not show itself up right until the very last moment when one pulls up closer into the lobby. The narrow reception facing the lobby is a linchpin that connects 2 parts of the 1 km long Heritance Kandalama hotel. All the rooms look out into the lake or the vast lush greens of the sloped terrain. A singly loaded corridor also means that a guest is in for a natural treat stepping out and taking the long winding walk to the other areas of the hotel. Swimming pools set on natural rock formations are positioned across the various levels of the hotel including one infinity pool. IMG_1880[1]

Completely set apart from the traditional style of Sri Lankan architecture, or even his own style, Bawa reinvents by incorporating a flat slab, a green roof and leafy external facade offset from the building fascia. Leafy creepers are then allowed to grow down shading the extensive verandahs and balconies across the hotel. Bawa’s minimalism and his approach to fuss free architecture is further extended into furniture that follow neat lines and solid texture. Burma teak, Bawa’s favorite wood kind finds its use liberally along with painted MS furniture, the proportions of which are again lofty and generous.

Studying the benches in the country’s railway stations Bawa came up with specific chairs that are set in the black expanse of the Kandalama floor.


Paying attention to the architectural tenets of light and shadow, orientation, color and texture, Bawa creates a delightful hotel, a retreat into nature naturally welcoming friendly fauna into the estate. Orchestrating wood and metal, the fineness of metal is inescapable. Whether as a railing or as staircase supports the metal railing is kept under a centimeter in dimension and creates a playful rhythm in the elevation. The visual finesse of metal and the bulk of wood are inversely related to their structural strength.


Peeking onto the volumes of space created are quirky touches to the scale, manifesting themselves as erratic balconies or naturally growing vines with a mind of their own. Stepping out of tune, these architectural elements add interest and create spaces to frame and appreciate the beautiful landscape that the hotel is embedded in.




As the landscape takes over the architecture, spaces are transformed into a green haven. Here below is a green roof that takes over just as the green walls finish.


The 1 km long hotel has a spa tucked into its one end, the visual treat that the corridors provide are all a part of the spatial experience intended by the architect.


In Bawa’s imitable style is the lighting design in line with his signature style is simple, effective and stark.

IMG_1892[1]Apart from offering delights that are architectural, the Heritance Kandalama whips up rather delightful offerings to the guests. Note the Sri Lankan art that Bawa uses to dress up the interiors. Most of Bawa’s work house work of eminent artists, with their works adding scale to the architecture that acts as a befitting background.

Swathed in black the restaurant interiors were first conceived by Bawa and later renovated on by Bawa’s aid Channa Daswathe.


Surrounded by rich scenic beauty, Bawa’s Kandalama is a great place to reflect upon in Dambulla, the heart of the island, with pretty lotuses and much avocados for company!

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An ideal day of respite at the Kandalama, lake, lotus, breeze and an avocado shake.


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