First opened in 1968, the grand dame of the south, Bentota Beach Hotel was recently transformed and introduced as the flagship property of the newly-launched The Cinnamon Luxury Collection – the group’s newest hospitality offering.
Bringing in a new genre of excitement, the hotel launched a series of curated luxury experiences specifically crafted to suit the vivid tastes of today’s discerning traveller.The inaugural event, which took place on 25-26 July, was a historic one where Bentota Beach – The Cinnamon Luxury Collection in collaboration with Lunuganga Trust hosted ‘In Situ – An Intimate Bawa Experience’ to commemorate 101 years of the architectural virtuoso and visionary who brought this glorious hotel to life in the 1960s.John Keells Group President – Leisure Sector Jit Guneratne notes: “Bentota Beach is entwined in the history of Asian architecture; it is here that Geoffrey Bawa’s concept of tropical modernism was brought to life. And today, this architectural marvel has been reinstated to its former glory by a dedicated team of architects, designers and artists making it a benchmark for luxurious hospitality infused with history, art and architecture. It’s a timeless property for the group, and we look forward to sharing it with our guests.” An intimate gathering of forty-five guests were a part of an action-packed weekend with a curated tour of Bawa’s iconic country house – Lunuganga Estate – and his 1968 masterpiece, Bentota Beach itself.
Personally guided by renowned architect Channa Daswatte and Curator of Art & Archival Collections of The Lunuganga Trust Shayari de Silva, guests were spellbound with inspired creativity around every corner of the illustrious garden, including the marvels of The Gift programme by architects such as Kengo Kuma, Dominic Sansoni and Lee Mingwei.Guests were then treated to a themed lunch at Bentota Beach – The Cinnamon Luxury Collection, specially curated by Head Chef Sunanda as his culinary tribute to The Gift programme at Lunuganga Estate via a series of delicate food art and decadent dishes from multiple cuisines.Lunch was followed by a curated Architect’s Walk of Bentota Beach by Chamika De Alwis and then high tea at the Sunset Lounge where Architect Ismeth Raheem shared his experience as an assistant architect, painter and sculptor of the hotel in the 1960s as well as during the revitalisation.The spotlight then transferred to Salon Talk with Channa Daswatte whose presentation on ‘Archiving Architecture’ was absorbed in pure awe by a captivated audience transfixed on the story of the hotel’s restoration.
“When a building has a series of ideas that is worth preserving, but the building itself cannot be conserved in the usual way, archiving it is a way forward,” he said, adding, “Bentota Beach Hotel was one such important building that could not be justifiably conserved in a traditional manger but was still too precious to see destroyed and lost for ever” and so the “part of it that contained most of the significant architectural ideas was thought of as worth preserving.”The next day, guests witnessed the opening of the Bawa suite at the Bentota Beach Heritage Wing – a tribute to the maestro with art, furniture and photos from Bawa’s own collection complemented by an unparalleled infinity view of the Indian Ocean and the Benthara River.The suite is part of the hotel’s 16 suites made from 30 rooms designed by Geoffrey Bawa for the original hotel, each bearing a unique sense of place, be it the majesty of the Blue Whale with the Nil Thalmaha Suite or the delicate art of colonial lace making with the Beeralu Suite to name a few.