Is it really possible for the sky to shatter into so many colors? Perched on the movable wooden pool deck of Villa Vista in Mirissa, Sri Lanka, overlooking the arch of Weligama Bay, the sunset is a daily display of nature’s living cornucopia. This villa truly has the most amazing view; one of the many reasons why it’s the perfect place to call home when visiting this popular beach destination in the island nation’s southern province.
Coming from India, one might wonder why a villa, or to be more precise, why this particular villa. We’re glad you asked. It’s a plausible question, given that seasoned beachgoers might already be accustomed to villa life, from their various trips to the sandier shores of Goa or to more exotic atolls in the Indian Ocean.
But have they ever lived in a house designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize? Preferably not. Ban was the architect of incredible structures around the world such as the cardboard cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, the paper dome in Taiwan, the Center Pompidou-Metz museum in Metz, France, and the house bamboo furniture at the Great Wall in China. . How Koenraad Pringiers, the owner of Villa Vista (he’s Flemish and has lived in Sri Lanka for more than four decades), convinced Ban to come on board is a story best told around beers. Preferably Lion – an excellent Sinhalese brew – while Koenraad himself tells what can only be described as an incidental story. His parents, moreover, live in the villa which dominates the top of the adjacent cliff. A villa designed by another Japanese architect, the revered Tadao Ando. The Pringiers family has incredible taste, clearly.
Ban is known as the father of “paper architecture” – a moniker derived from the materials used for design, aka paper and its derivatives (cardboard etc.), and an emphasis on durable form. His canvas, at the time, was the bare expanse of a hill overlooking Weligama Bay. Prime real estate that was, at the time, an eight-acre blank canvas, with chilling memories – the 2004 tsunami that swept through its destruction in the city below.
The beauty of Ban’s creation and the respect it so clearly has for nature – a harmonious partnership with the elements of sky, earth, water, flora and fauna – is both a balm and a godsend. If one were to look at the fact sheet, you would read: Vast three bedroom villa with en-suite bathrooms with rain showers and glorious baths. A guest house. Meals prepared by the chef. Great staff. A private infinity pool with panoramic views. A gym. All amenities included, as expected. A private, winding driveway. A location that overlooks Mirissa’s scenic waterfront, giving you the benefit of luxurious privacy, while being in the heart of the action. But living here, even for a few days, is so much more.
Ban’s architecture plays with space, natural light and wind. Locally sourced wood and coconut leaves were used in its creation, making it a very unique blend of Sri Lankan style and modern construction. The imposing structure is divided into three levels that meet, housed under a woven teak ceiling, with a massive latticework of shutters at one end.
On the other, a glazed facade opens onto the long infinity pool and the elements. On the hottest days, under the equatorial sun, no air conditioning is needed due to the constant cooling cross ventilation. The central section resembles a long, wide runway dotted with sectional sofas and lounge beds — the bedrooms on either side are framed by doors and short stairways for absolute privacy; you are literally kings, queens and everyone in between, in your castle here. There are no columns or pillars. Everything is airy, expansive, chic and comfortable, and the stunning decor was imagined by the eye of an experienced artist, Koenraad’s mother. ‘
There is lush wilderness surrounding the property and a private walkway that leads through greenery and terraces to an open-air viewpoint and a secluded section of the beach. And the food – oh, the food, the glorious food. Freshly cooked and hospitably served, there are many different styles on offer, from Sri Lankan (hoppers for brekkie!) to hearty Italian, should your palate soar.
Rooms are more spartan in terms of decor – because who needs a distraction from the view? There’s a TV, which will probably never turn on because you’ll be too busy lounging on a daybed or in the pool. The beds, immaculate, white and fluffy, will invite you to immerse your sun-drenched body there every night. A nice soak in the large tub will soothe your muscles, just in case you choose a surf lesson or two (many schools are only a short drive away). But, more importantly – and take this from an insomniac reporter with a caffeine and screen addiction – you’ll sleep beautifully. It is the kind of rest that comes, one might imagine, to the most contented soul with cloudless thoughts.
So again. Why Villa Vista? Because where else would you like to be? If your heart and mind yearn for something that will evolve into a story you will tell for years to come, this is where your journey begins and ends. Preferably with a chilled Lion close at hand.