‘Ranajayagama’ - Creation of an Oasis
‘Ranajayagama’, a pioneering housing project by the Ministry of
Defense, Public Security and Law and Order for the Tri Services
Personnel was declared open on the 22nd November 2009 by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa. The project was led by the Ministry of Defense under
the ‘Api Wenuwen Api’ scheme, with the noble intention of providing
shelter for the needy security service personnel.
The scheme is built with 1509 completed housing units and other
ancillary facilities such as Supermarket, Bank, Police Unit, places of
religious worship, Post Office, Pre School, Daycare, School and health
center building. The self employment training center, commercial center,
recreational facility, community center, marketplace, banquet hall and
gymnasium, public library including Children’s Play area are in the
process of being constructed.
ready for occupation
The site locates itself in a dry, rustic setting in Ipalogama,
Anuradapura, adjoining a tank, and was originally an overgrown piece of
land lost in the surrounding greenscape, in about 180 acres of land. A
cart route segmented the setting to two components, while it remained
well camouflaged in the thicket, thus contained within it human as well
as elephant passageways.
The architect of the project understood the magnitude of the task, a
susceptible natural setting to be transformed to a human habitat, while
causing minimum damage to the surrounding and its eco- system. For the
architect, it was important that aesthetically pleasing & a sustainable
humane settlement is achieved while understanding the scale and required
infrastructure facilities so that the project becomes a success.
The project initiated and in-depth study of the locality which
enabled the architect to tune his ideas to attain the most appropriate
layout for the scheme.
At the commencement itself the required reservations were introduced
creating buffer zones between sensitive natural elements and human
habitat, also preserving elephant corridors. The cart route was
transformed to the main artery road which ties the layout in place, the
by ways and a hierarchical road network was constructed with provision
for cycle alleys, walkways and strips for landscaping.
The scheme contains four types of houses, two distinctive models and
their mirror image. Each house 800sq.ft in extent and consist of three
bedrooms, kitchen, and verandah, living and dining. The arrangement of
the dwellings has given specific concern to traditional Sri Lankan
settlement patterns. “Our culture and values has a tremendous impact on
our settlements, and traditional settlements are always small in scale
mostly as neighborhood units.
It is therefore important that the concept of small neighbourhoods to
be facilitated in the design; roads not acting as a thoroughfare but
terminating in a cul-de-sac, which enhances the social integration” says
the architect. While the by-lanes of the scheme concentrate on
clustering small neighbourhoods the main public facilities of the scheme
has been positioned at the center of the site.
This central public square captures a direct view of the religious
place of worship located at the highest altitude of the setting above a
natural bolder, beyond which sits the Amphitheater and playground
catering to the cultural & social needs of the community.
The zoning of the layout was also influenced by the thermal and
climatic survey carried out in collaboration with the University of
Moratuwa. In order to reduce the heat-island effect & to promote passive
cooling and more natural light and ventilation within the interior of
built forms so that energy efficient comfort is attained, a staggered
formation of the housing units was developed.
Every available technique has been utilized to its maximum potential
to accommodate energy efficiency using the setting, wind directions, and
thick landscape patches for the thermal comfort. All houses are built
with Clay Tiles with larger girth trees in front as well as in the rear
of each plot. The arrangement also has taken to consideration the
natural contour of the site, which promotes the natural water flow to
facilitate storm water drainage.
The Architectural language employed is rather simple, aligned to a
mix of contemporary Sri Lankan architecture and modern forms, all
structures impressing on a residential quality, to generate a homely
The buildings take a low scale clustered formation which diminishes
the monotony that would otherwise exist in such a repetitive set up.
Throughout the design, careful measure was taken to wrap the new habitat
with greenscape as can be seen throughout design and construction of the
project; the architectural features, details, zoning of terrain,
structural systems and many other factors contribute to make the habitat
an element in the setting.
The architect Rukshan Widyalankara, while acknowledging the
contribution by others in the design team, project managers, NCASL, and
later the Sri Lanka Navy, particularly spoke of the contribution by Mr.
Gotabaya Rajapakse, Secretary of the Ministry of Defense under whose
guidance the project was carried out.
“It was due to Mr Rajapakse’s selfless service and love of military
personnel, particularly to those in the lower ranks, which saw this
project to fruition. Only a very few will know it” said architect
Widyalankara. (Based on an interview with Architect of the
‘Ranajayagama’ project Rukshan Widyalankara)