The Kandalama Hotel, nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Dambulla, Sri Lanka, seamlessly blends with its natural surroundings. Designed by renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, the hotel is a testament to his visionary approach, fusing modernist design principles with a deep reverence for local traditions and environmental sustainability. Completed in 1994, this iconic structure stands as an embodiment of Bawa’s signature “tropical modernism” style and showcases his commitment to integrating architecture seamlessly with the environment.
Kandalama Hotel Technical Information
- Architects: Geoffrey Bawa
- Location: Dambulla, Sri Lanka
- Topics: Tropical Architecture
- Client: Heritance Hotels
- Length & Program: 1 km long, and it contains 152 rooms, including suites
- Project Year: 1991-1994
- Photographs: © Courtesy of The Kandalama Heritance Hotel, © Horvath Bence
What matters are ideas. If ideas can stand up in our climate, in our seas of green, in our silhouettes of mountains and our scorching sunshine, then I think we can say that we have an architecture.– Geoffrey Bawa1
Kandalama Hotel Photographs
The Kandalama Hotel: An Architectural Marvel
Situated amidst Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, the Kandalama Hotel stands at the heart of a man-made reservoir and a centuries-old forest. Constructed in 1994, the hotel offers an immersive experience of the region’s lush landscape and a breathtaking view of the Sigiriya rock fortress.
Geoffrey Bawa, the mastermind behind the hotel’s design, envisioned the structure to blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment. It was not meant to stand out but rather to quietly assimilate. On approach, the Kandalama hotel is hardly visible, hidden behind the surrounding foliage and integrated into the mountainside. From a distance, it appears as an extension of the natural landscape, disappearing into the contours of the land.
Bawa’s concept for the hotel was based on the idea of a man-made ‘cave’ like structure, akin to the region’s natural rock formations. The hotel is built using locally sourced materials, with walls that seem to rise directly from the ground and rooftop gardens that extend the natural landscape onto the structure itself. The design of the hotel unfolds organically with ramps, bridges, and passages that connect different areas, encouraging visitors to explore and connect with their surroundings.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Kandalama Hotel is its environmentally conscious design. The hotel, with its green roofs, rainwater harvesting systems, and natural ventilation, sets an example for sustainable architecture. The passive cooling techniques employed minimize energy consumption, taking advantage of the area’s natural breezes to regulate the building’s temperature.
Furthermore, the hotel plays host to a variety of local flora and fauna, including monkeys, birds, and butterflies. The building’s design, intentionally left unfinished in certain places, allows nature to ‘complete’ the structure over time, demonstrating Bawa’s belief in the interaction between nature and architecture.
Beyond environmental considerations, Bawa also focused on incorporating local culture into the Kandalama Hotel’s design. The hotel showcases traditional Sri Lankan craftsmanship and building techniques. Local materials like ‘Kaduru’ timber and hand-made terra cotta tiles are used extensively. Traditional local artisans were employed to create intricate frescoes and murals, adding to the cultural richness of the place.
Though Bawa passed away in 2003, his legacy continues to live on through the Kandalama Hotel. It serves as an inspiration to architects globally, showcasing how built structures can co-exist harmoniously with nature and how sustainability can be integrated into architectural design. This iconic structure offers a unique perspective on the transformative power of architecture that respects and enhances its natural surroundings.
Moreover, Bawa’s approach to integrating local artistry into his designs fosters a sense of place and belonging, reinforcing local cultural identity while catering to international guests. The murals and frescoes found in the Kandalama Hotel are not just decorative elements; they narrate the rich history and tradition of Sri Lanka, enhancing the visitor’s experience and understanding of this vibrant culture.
Hotel Image Gallery
About Geoffrey Bawa
Geoffrey Bawa (1919-2003) was a highly influential Sri Lankan architect known for his pioneering work in tropical modernist architecture. His designs, deeply rooted in the local context of Sri Lanka, seamlessly merged the built environment with the natural landscape, creating harmonious spaces that embraced cultural traditions and responded to the tropical climate. Bawa’s sensitivity to site conditions, his mastery of proportion and scale, and his innovative use of materials established him as a visionary architect. His iconic projects, such as the Kandalama Heritance Hotel and the Lunuganga Estate, continue to inspire architects worldwide, leaving a lasting legacy that celebrates the integration of architecture, nature, and cultural identity.
- Geoffrey Bawa: The Complete Works by Geoffrey Bawa & David Robson