|Wednesday, 21 July 2004|
Bandaranaike Samadhi, a symbol with deep meaning - Architect Panini Tennakoon
Architect Panini Tennakoon who designed the Bandaranaike Samadhi at Horagolla has said that the design was based on ancient Architecture of the Anuradhapura period and that it has deep symbolic meaning.
He has conveyed this view to Architects Sadere Wittachchi and Deapali Mody who were writing a personality view on Architect Tennakoon in the SLIA journal Architect (Vol. 104 Oct 2003). We had letter to the Archwatch from a reader in Gampaha last week, K.D. Sumanasena who is an enthusiast in culture and Arts, wanting to know who had designed the Bandaranaike Samadhi. Hence we picked this article to lead with the page today.
Looking back on his long career he mentions the design of the monument for the Bandaranaike Samadhi at Horagolla. He explains that the scheme was selected due to the simplicity and the serenity it possessed. The design was based on the ancient architecture of the Anuradhapura period. All elements used, as he explains, have a deep symbolic meaning.
Panini Tenekoon celebrated his 80th birthday last year and recollects his aptitude for creating various carvings and other works of art from this young days. He describes the unique events that led to his taking up a career in architecture. The late Mr. Shirley de Alwis observed his creative abilities and advised him to become an architect deviating from his ambition to do medicine.
Panini joined the training course in architecture established by the university Architect, Shirley de Alwis in his office at the Peradeniya Campus in 1945. In 1955 he was awarded the Colombo Plan scholarship to pursue his studies at the School of Architecture at the University at the University of Melbourne in Australia. There his outstanding scholastic performance won him several prizes and he became the first Asian student to be awarded the Wunderlich Annual prize.
Returning to the island in 1958 he joined the Public Works Department as an Assistant Architect. In the year 1977 he was appointed Chief Architect.
Additional Director in the Department of Buildings being the first Sri Lankan architect to receive this appointment. Panini is a keen wildlife enthusiast and a nature photographer. Beauty of nature captured with his 'camera eye' hang in his study.
When the department was commissioned to design several structures in national park throughout the island, he took all necessary precautions to minimize damage to the surroundings. He used timber and rubble maintaining harmony and merging with the environment. He made his bungalows 'eco-friendly'. For the Kotmotte park bungalow he utilized available fallen tree trunks to make 'A- frames'. The bungalows had open wide decks to enable visitors to watch the surrounding jungles. He designed the entrance feature and office complex at the Wilpattu National Park, the Gonawiddagala Bungalow; the Thimirigasmankada bungalow at the Udawalawe national park and the park bungalow at Giritale National Park.
The Zoological Gardens at Dehiwala is a favourite with children and foreign visitors. The buildings he did for the Zoological Gardens in Dehiwala include the entrance feature which uses an abstract mural decoration on the facade; the aquarium (minmedura) which attempts to give the visitor a feeling of walking underwater; the 'reptiliniam' was provided with a natural environment for the non poisonous reptiles, to be viewed by the spectators from a narrow bridge, and the poisonous varieties of reptiles to be displayed in large enclosures with natural foliage and sunlight; the public restaurant was designed to resemble a large tree in appearance and the office complex for management was also decorated with a mural in relief depicted birds and animals found in the zoo.
Some of the notable public buildings to his credit include the medical students hostel for the Colombo medical faculty, with a novel system for the roof of the four storey complex with asbestos roof sheets sloping to a center corridor with a concrete slab which acts as a gutter, several police station buildings, educational and health related buildings, the extension to the United Nations Development Program Complex, Colombo 07 and most notably the Department of National Archives.
Department of National Archives
The earlier site selected by the client for the National archives building was in Gangodawila. However, once the committee chaired by late President J.R. Jayewardene the then Minister of State approved the design, the site was relocated on a 4 acre plot of land on Reid Avenue, Colombo 7. The building is located at the far corner of the site with a curved facade reflecting the curve of the Independence Avenue roundabout. The large extent of green parkland was to be unenclosed to enable the public to enjoy green space in the city but was enclosed subsequently.
Various devices have been incorporated to prevent direct sunlight entering the air conditioned and moisture controlled document stacking areas.
Vertical pre-cast concrete fins at close intervals are used in the exterior facades on the three elevations of this triangular building with ordinary clear glass windows provided behind them.
As Panini says, this system of concrete fins and standard size windows have proven itself in protecting the archives during a terrorist bomb attack, where large areas of expensive glass panes would have shattered, and would have required to be replaced at immense cost. It is interesting to note how various elements and detailing are incorporated in the design to make the building appropriate for a tropical climate.
The original design for the Central Supermarket - Pettah (fish market) is another interesting building to Panini's credit. This multi-storey complex was designed with wholesale and retail fish stalls and other ancillary facilities on the ground and mezzanine floors with the upper floors holding shopping arcades and banks segregated from the fish sales area.
A novel system has been incorporated into the design to prevent the odour of entering the upper floors. This has been done with the use of extensive open courtyards in the centre of the shopping arcade levels and the installation of tall tapering funnels punching through the slabs of the courtyards to provide light and ventilation to the lower areas. The external facade of the upper floor areas were provided with fixed glazing to provide only light requirements and prevent odour coming in from the fish market.
The Supreme Courts Complex at Hulftsdorp designed in 1978 was subsequently built with the assistance of the Chinese Government. As Panini explained the octagonal form of the Supreme Courts complex was derived from the Paththirippuwa (octagonal library) of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, and the roof was inspired by the traditional Sri Lankan greeting of 'Ayubowan' with the joining of two palms.
Panini continued to be active professional after retirement from the Department of Buildings in 1979. He accepted the post of Chief Architect of the Greater Colombo Development Authority presently known as the UDA.
As the Consultant Architect of the Architectural Unit of the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau. (CECB) in 1991 untill his retirement in 1993, Panini was responsible for preliminary development scheme and master plan for the Lady Ridgeway Children's Hospital in Borella, which was funded by the Chinese government, (and built by the CECB?) and also the proposal for the development of the premises of the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau itself at Colombo 7.
The Teaching Hospital Complex at Colombo South General Hospital, Kalubowila and the Botany and Zoology Faculty Complex at Colombo Campus designed incorporates central courtyards to compensate for the somewhat blank external facades designed to avoid dust and noise from the surroundings.
After his retirement in 1993 he concentrated on the design of low cost housing and religious buildings with the minimal utilisation of timber elements to save our fast dwindling forest cover and to assist in reducing the effect of global warming.
As he explains his greatest desire in his architectural career has been to design a low cost house for the under privileged, that will enable them to live in the traditional manner, which they cherish.
His design utilises hollow blocks which could be manufactured in the village itself and the construction could be carried out by the family members themselves. "The design eliminates the use of timber members for the roof by having short roof spans between load bearing walls spanned directly by a single asbestos roofing sheet. If all the furniture is built in further cost reduction could be possible" he stated.
Panini has strived in his career as an architect to solve many design problems relating to climate and construction cost in an innovative manner.
Some of his buildings stand testament to his successes in achieving this end. His love of nature and his belief that man should live in harmony with her has also greatly influenced his designs. His concern for all mankind can be seen in the designs of low cost housing and in trying to retain the flavours of the cultures and customs to which the users belong.
Panini has designed many private residences but by far the majority of his contribution as an architect has been in the public realm where he attempts to solve basics human and functional needs within the difficult parameters of building using local materials and technology and for the traditional user within their own cultural context.
Come with your housing problems to "Archwatch" Open Day
It's all free, an opportunity for you to discuss your housing or building problems, with the 'Arch Watch' (Daily News/SLIA Housing and Building Advisory Forum) Panel of Chartered Architects and UDA, Housing Ministry representatives and Colombo, Kotte, and Dehiwala-Mt. Lavinia Mayors or their representatives at this "Open Day Forum" on Saturday, August 7 from 9.30 am to 3 pm at SLIA Auditorium at No. 120/7, Vidya Mawatha, Torrington Square, Colombo 7.
Lunch will be provided by the SLIA.
As in all events of this nature being organised by professional bodies and the expenditure involved having to be kept within a certain allocation, the public attendance at this event is being limited to 50 persons.
Since a few more seats are available for the public, if you are interested in attending the event to get your housing or building problem resolved, please reserve your seat early by calling Mayanthi Jayasinghe at the SLIA, Tel: 2697109 or by personally calling over at the office.
Letter Box :
Dr. K. N. K. Wijewardena on the "Archwatch Public Day"
Dr. K. N. K. Wijewardena from Battaramulla a former Director Colombo National Hospital in a letter to the Archwatch on the forthcoming 'Open Day' writes:
"Let me commend the Archwatch Committee and the Daily News for having decided to re-commence the Architects Open Day Programmes, as was done a few years back in the earlier as part of the Daily News/SLIA Housing Advisory Column. Coordinated by Senior Journalist Edward Arambewala as in the present Archwatch Page.
I believe that Architects like doctors play a useful role in building a healthy population because a properly designed house has much to do in ensuring healthy living.
This way Architects have to come much more closer to the people than at present.
Archwatch open days like the one you have organised for August 7th meets with this need and a step in the right direction.I have some environmental problems to raise at this meeting and also to focus attention of the Architects and the Authorities concerned whether they are playing their role properly or at all in ensuring environmental health. I will be attending this important event, and I wish the "Archwatch Open Day" all success.
Archwatch:- Thank you doctor Wijewardena for your very encouraging letter. We had several letters like this from the public.
Commending us for commencing this monthly programmes, where the public with their housing planning, construction, delays in approvals etc. could come and discuss directly with the Architects.
We are hoping to continue this programme with the support of the building and construction trade and industry at Provincial level too.
Produced by Lake House