IN HARMONY WITH NATURE Eco styles | Daily News


College Building
College Building

Sri Lanka’s strength is its contrasting features. The contrast between city life and village life is a fine example. Our tropical climate is very conducive. We are blessed with favorable conditions. It offers greater freedom for design. This climate of ours provides us with ample sunlight, rain and wind. And in Sri Lanka, the city and the village have their own unique and beautiful approach to these climatic conditions. Arch World speaks to Architect Dilruwan Fernando on preserving these approaches .

Proposed six storey city hotel in Colombo

Sri Lankan village life though starting to change now, was a retreat for Sri Lankans living in a city. Often during the school vacation, parents would take their children to the village to experience the tranquility and the calmness. It was a place with lush vegetation. It was a land of bullock carts and coconut trees , a place with streams and fresh air, and a place with friendly people. Without turning this into a city, should we not be preserving this beautiful environment?

Fernando points out there should be balance. Yes there should be modern day facilities, but the village life needs to be preserved.

“My wish is that the beauty of the rural village remains as it is with its own beauty, while giving its people sufficient infrastructure such as better sanitation and housing. With the introduction of better transportation to the rural areas and to all parts of the country, rural townships of Sri Lanka will develop gradually based on different economic and physical forces,” said Fernando.

We need to make use of what we have –our natural beauty. We can have beautiful parks that are self -sufficient because of our abundant rain and sunshine. We can have high-rise buildings that need not be fully air conditioned, because of natural ventilation -because we have abundant wind resources.

“Sri Lanka is a country that is blessed with a surprising contrast. Sunny beaches to calm irrigation tanks, dramatic streams to rivers and canals, mountain plains to mountains and hills, wetlands to thick forests, paddy fields to tea plantations, all being under the control of the beautiful tropical climate.

From early days Sinhalese had a unique approach to the climate, topology and water. They had very simple colonnaded buildings with a natural composition. Long overhangs providing protection by rain and cross ventilation to keep the inside cool. This approach created an interesting dialogue between inside and outside spaces giving more opportunity for natural ventilation. Our Architecture went through many socio cultural influences in the past which changed the styles time to time,” said Fernando.

Dilruwan Fernando.
Pictures by Sarath Peiris

There is an element of clutter in our towns today. Towns have so many billboards with advertisements and all kinds of buildings that are so out of character, when comparing each other. There is no order or commonality. There need to be buildings that respond to the climate while retaining a certain beauty.

“When it comes to our rural townships one can’t find the difference between one town to another. Kandy has a bit of control over its new buildings which have a Kandyan character. But there is no control over the brand hoardings and signage in these towns. We should set limitations to the size of branding and signage. The brands are highlighted without being responsive to the town’s character. If there is no particular Architectural character to a particular town, we should create a character,” said Fernando.

Fernando pointed out that with the introduction of Buddhism in the 5th century BC, new architectural styles appeared - monasteries and temple & royal architecture. e.g. Royal Audience Hall in Polonnaruwa and the open pavilions of Sigiriya. Then the architecture got influenced by Arab merchants, the Dutch, the Portuguese and British.

After the 50’s we adopted a Nationalistic approach such as the design of the Peradeniya University. Sri Lankan tropical modernism was introduced by veterans like Archt. Geoffrey Bawa, Archt. Ulrick Plesner and Archt. Minnette de Silva. There are many examples of new generation Sri Lankan architects who continue in the line of taking the architectural experience to new levels.

Even though the rural life has its own appeal you can’t resist the appeal of city life. Being inside those modern day high-rise buildings, give you that larger than life feeling. Being inside its luxurious corridors with porcelain tile flooring, intricate designs carved into its walls, the floral arrangements has its own appeal. Outside those buildings, a city created by architects with proper and refined architectural taste generates its own current. A cluttered city is one where the building designs do not agree with each other. There is no compatibility.

“With globalization, cities need to be developed. Trends are set with economic targets to transform Colombo to suit the next 50 years. Therefore buildings such as Shopping Malls, Mix developments, hotels and condominiums, city hotels and office towers are a must in the city. Sometimes iconic buildings are also essential in this global market to attract business and tourism. “Burge Al Arab” in Dubai, the “Shard” and “St. Mary Axe” in London and “Marina Bay Sands” in Singapore are some of the examples from other countries. The Altair is an iconic building designed by World renowned Archt. Moshe Safdie from USA. City Centre also has similar iconic features. The new development of low and middle income housing will also be a need in and around Colombo. It is these buildings that need to be done with sufficient recreational open spaces for the benefit of its common people,” explained Fernando.

Ultimately we all wish to live in a beautiful, healthy, modern and clean city.

“The Port city is coming up, and we will see a lot of skyscrapers and iconic buildings whether we like or not. And we all hope that it will uplift the image of Colombo while being beneficial for the social fabric of the city,” added Fernando.

As noted above, the city needs to be beautiful and it should have compatibility. But we need to keep in mind that we must preserve our local identity. That means there needs to be a balance. There needs to be a balance between modernity and tradition.

“If one compares business centers of different parts of the world they all have similar materials such as glass, concrete and steel and it looks the same from out. Although the shopping malls are a bit different they all give the same experience. The international fast food restaurants and branded shopping stores, they all give the same landscape everywhere. A uniformity of the urban space is important but the danger is that our local identity might disappear and we might lose our sense of belonging. Therefore it is essential to go back to our roots and capture the essence of space. Main cities should develop to cater to the global market, with high density housing, high rise office complexes and shopping malls,” pointed out Fernando.

Fernando pointed out that in 2030, the estimated population in Colombo will double. The western province population will rise by another four million making it close to nine million. Over a million vehicles travel to Colombo city limits daily and will be increased by 2030. The average speed has dropped to below 10kmph. It will be further reduced.

“My view is public transport systems like train and bus services needs to be urgently uplifted. And three wheelers should be banned from entering Colombo. Ongoing light rail system will be an advantage. If we can add more public parks, shaded walkways it will be beneficial for the public,” said Fernando.


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