Structuring spaces | Daily News


Structuring spaces

Archt. Dr. Senaka Dharmatilleke  Picture by Thushara Fernando

The profession of Architecture is commonly perceived to be related to the creation of exciting spaces and inspiring forms with the architect being trained in the art of dealing with space and form. ArchWorld speaks to Archt. Dr. Senaka Dharmatilleke who deeply elaborates on the broader strategic role of the Architect in dealing with socio-political and economic issues of a society. Dharmatilleke, a deep thinker, reflects upon how the professional expertise of the architect could contribute to national development at a broader level, in mega scale restructuring schemes of the urban space.

"The architect's ability in "structuring space" to facilitate a specific function or a behavioural pattern is the key to the articulation of space and form. Spatially designating the locations of functional areas and optimising the circulation and movement patterns of human traffic or logistics is an inherent part of architectural design. Thus, macro level urban developments in most developed countries have harnessed such skills of the architects in dealing with their "geo-spatial" endeavours that need - quantitative measures related to functionality and qualitative measures related to human life and communal spirit," said Dharmatilleke.

In the wake of a state driven movement for the development of a Mega-polis and global initiatives to ensure sustainability in the built environment through "Urban Sustainability", the architect's role may now be redefined.

"In such a context, the architects may use their professional capabilities to deal with a grand scheme of national level that adopts a "geo-spatial approach" for socio-economic development while ensuring a sustainable growth of the nation's built environment," stated Dharmatilleke


Dharmatilleke explained the term 'Mega-polis'.

"Based on the definition advanced by academics, a mega-polis is a densely populated large spatial entity created by the consolidation of a complex network of adjacent or overlapping metropolitan areas. Further, the theory of Ekistics proposed by Doxiadis (The Greek Architect / Town Planner who introduced the term 'mega-polis') explores how such intensification of scale and density of urban entities can activate synergies in - coordinated industrial production, economic prosperity and social development; if strategically managed and synchronized," added Dharmatilleke

Faculty of Graduate Studies at KDU

He observes that although this particular term is not used and the proposed intensities are not practiced, countries such as Singapore have reaped the benefits of strategic spatial structuring played upon a nation-wide canvas, in which Architects and Urban Designers have played a key role.

"In such endeavours they have achieved "functional efficiency" of human activity and feasible distribution of infrastructure while addressing quantitative and qualitative demands of habitation," pointed out Dharmatilleke

Architects can positively contribute to mega scale urban restructuring while addressing all three tenants of "Urban Sustainability" such as - Economic sustainability, Social sustainability and Environmental sustainability.

"A broader urban structuring could ensure that essential functional relationships needed for strong economic growth are facilitated by the strategic manipulation of physical space. In such a grand scheme, the location of industries and production centres will ensure easy access to raw material and resources while finished products could be easily dispatched to ports, airports and internal distribution centres," said Dharmatilleke

The availability of skilled manpower resources within close reach to function such production bases will be another consideration for locating particular industries in terms of demographic distribution of the working populations.

"Also to activate synergies between industrial production and education, industry-based research and development facilities will be spatially linked with institutions of higher education and vocational training.

In coordinating all the above in a space based matrix, a comprehensive network of transportation will be overlapped and synchronized with particular needs of industrial production and human transportation. Similar considerations will come into play in terms of agricultural production if such a scheme is extended into a nationwide scheme to ensure Economic Sustainability," added Dharmatilleke

Social Sustainability

Dharmatilleke elaborated on "Social Sustainability" and explains how it could be connected to the process of 'industrial production' related to economic sustainability.

"The residential enclaves of the human resources that provide manpower for the previously noted factories would be also synchronized spatially to ensure transportation needs of the working population between their homes and workplaces. This spatial synchronisation should also serve their dependents in terms of schooling, shopping, obtaining medical facilities, recreation," said Dharmatilleke

With such synchronization of economic production with the provision of social infrastructure and the generation of employment, the aspect of social sustainability can be addressed effectively.

"Space based strategies could ensure social equity, social justice and inclusion through the strategic provision of public spaces. Space based strategies related to micro scale zoning may facilitate greater distribution of wealth by providing opportunities for retail and other financial ventures of different scales and intensities to be accommodated in favourable locations. Also this space based drive for social equity could be pursued in terms of generating affordable housing for a multiplicity of socio-economic groups in a coordinated spatial matrix. Further, qualitative aspects such as the preservation of cultural heritage, identity and creating a sense of place that would nurture a sense of belonging for varied social groups would be addressed if such a grand scheme is conducted in a comprehensive space based approach," clarified Dharmatilleke

Environmental Sustainability

Finally, Dharmatilleke focuses on 'Environmental Sustainability'.

"In a space based mega-exercise, which spatially synchronises industrial production and human habitation, the professionals who spearhead this movement would be in a perfect position to ensure the environmental sustainability of the total scheme. The main tenants of the term environmental sustainability can be viewed as - the "prevention of resource depletion" and the "prevention of environmental pollution". Such a nationwide development scheme would have sufficient scale to comprehensively manipulate aspects such as - the spatial distribution of the generating sources of waste / emissions as and their disposal systems, the type of energy used for production in terms of their renewability and pollution levels, and the sources where water and mineral resources are tapped and their quantities.

Thus, it could engage professionals who are trained to mitigate such ill-effects by formulating and implementing "Development Controls" in terms of "Planning and Building Regulations" while also evaluating development proposals.

Thus, such regulations would not be negative rules that hinder physical development but positive guidelines that would enhance the environmental quality and also facilitate further development at subsequent stages," summed up Dharmatilleke. 


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