ANARCHITECT’s Modernist hotel in Sri Lanka


Edmund Sumner,

Ahangama, Sri Lanka,



Harding Boutique Hotel opened a few months ago in Ahangama, Sri Lanka. The project by British architect Jonathan Ashmore of ANARCHITECT is the result of close collaboration between the client and the architect, paying tribute to the Sri Lanka Tropical Modernism genre of architecture and its founder Geoffrey Bawa.

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ANARCHITECT’s Modernist hotel in Sri Lanka 
Hotelier Paul Harding and Jonathan Ashmore, founding principal of ANARCHITECT, a studio with offices in Dubai and London, connected through their shared admiration for Sri Lanka: its rich landscape, cultural diversity and natural hospitality. In addition, Paul Harding’s great uncle was one of the first hoteliers and a great pioneer of tourism in the country. "The Blue Lagoon" was Sri Lanka’s first hotel designed by Geoffrey Bawa, the father of Sri Lankan Modernist architecture, according to the Sri Lankan – Australian entrepreneur.
Jonathan Ashmore of ANARCHITECT began his passionate exploration with the intention of creating a property for Paul inspired by the vernacular Modernist movement in Sri Lanka in the dense coconut groves of Sri Lanka’s Southern Province, on the footprint of an old tsunami-damaged house just metres from the pristine beaches of Ahangama, a popular destination for surfers.
The architecture of Harding Boutique Hotel is therefore based on the old house, rising vertically to contain six suites. The entire project revolves around a characteristic open-air staircase offering new views of the coast and the dense vegetation, coming up with a new holiday resort concept.
The building designed by Jonathan Ashmore for Paul Harding has a purist, partly Brutalist form based on the shape of the original lot, bending away to capture views of the ocean at the front and of the lively town of Ahangama at the back. In line with the desire to create a structure that is sustainable in every way, from environmental to social, all the materials used in the project were sourced locally and selected for their longevity even when exposed to the weather and the seaside conditions. All the carpentry was performed by local craftspeople, from the floors to the surfaces and the custom-built furnishings. 
The hotel’s narrow east-west section means that natural cross- ventilation filtering the prevailing winds on the coast is sufficient, and creates constant permeability between indoor, interstitial and outdoor spaces to establish dialogue between hotel guests and nature. As in Geoffrey Bawa’s works, which brought a post-colonial cultural renaissance to the areas he worked in, the hotel explores Modernism with local cultural implications and natural resources.
As Jonathan Ashmore of ANARCHITECT explains: " I wanted an authentic, genuine Sri Lankan experience for the hotel as this is what drew me to Paul’s project, yet which doesn’t conform to a vernacular or colonial-inspired design as a restrictive anchor. Both the client and I shared a vision of creating a modern-progressive design that would sit in contrast to the other surrounding buildings yet feel so of-place, that it must have always existed.”
Ahangama’s Harding Boutique Hotel offers the experience of a holiday in which dialogue with one’s natural surroundings permeates every little detail, as may be seen in the façades of the staircase and private balconies, which are intentionally made dynamic and interactive so that guests can easily model the sunbreaks with their hands as the sunlight and tropical weather changes. The café overlooks an infinity pool with a pink-pigmented deck inspired by the colour of the clay around it, offering an authentic yet contemporary new experience of Sri Lanka.

Christiane Bürklein

Location: Ahangama, Sri Lanka
Year: 2022
Images: Edmund Sumner


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