‘There is nothing like the Lotus Tower in the whole of this world’ says Chief Architect of Lotus Tower and University of Moratuwa, Senior Professor of Architecture Samitha Manawadu, to the Daily News on the marvelous creation that is the Lotus Tower/Nelum Kuluna. In fact, the Lotus symbolizes new beginnings, life and beauty.

Manawadu pointed out that according to the legends about the birth of the baby Siddhartha Gautama which took place on a full moon day, Prince Siddhartha began to walk seven steps forward and at each step a lotus flower appeared on the ground.

Buddhist literature tell us that the lotus is symbolic of purity of the body, speech, and mind as while rooted in the mud, its flowers blossom on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. It is also symbolic of detachment as drops of water easily slide off its petals.

Chief Architect of Lotus Tower and  Senior Professor of Architecture
Samitha Manawadu

“There is nothing in the world equal or similar to the Colombo Lotus Tower which is a very unique building and was inspired by a lotus plant, from the lotus bud. The original site in Peliyagoda in 2008, was shifted to Colombo in 2011. In my first site visit to this particular site, I walked over ten hectares and at that time a small portion of the site was a marshy land and so we decided that the Lotus Bud should serve as a symbol of the tower. That was the inspiration for the tower. I must say that the Chinese team who worked with me, copied my design and built a lotus tower in China, which is much smaller than the Colombo Lotus Tower and they even showed me the pics. So there is another Lotus Tower in China, 120 meters in height which is one third of our Lotus Tower. There is nothing similar to Lotus Tower in the world but there are towers in the world much taller than this. However the configuration and outlook is completely different compared to any other monument in the world. The Lotus tower is 356.3 meters. There is no precedent for the tower in the world,” explained Manawadu.

Manawadu commented that it is indeed a timeless creation stating that the usage of the Lotus has many examples in Sri Lankan history. The lotus has been a part of Sri Lankan life throughout generations with the earliest reference to Prince Siddhartha’s miraculous feat of walking on Lotus flowers.

“The flower has always been a flower for us. The Lotus has always been a flower of veneration for Buddhists in Sri Lanka. The Nelum Kuluna also responds to the Sri Lankan climate, because when it comes to technology we have used glasses with Nano-coating. We have cut down on the sun’s rays and heat coming into the building. The paintings are also Nano Paintings. So they are maintenance free paintings otherwise a tower of this nature may require re-painting once in two ears or three years’ time. But with these Nano paintings we can wait for 10 or 15 years. They are naturally maintained surfaces,” pointed out Manawadu.

The original cost of building the Nelum Kuluna was US$104.3 million. The original plan was to build a similar tower in Peliyagoda but due to various reasons the building was shifted to Colombo and the interiors of the tower were completely changed.

“Earlier the tower was a conference center, an alternative for the BMICH, but now it is a tourist attraction. Some of the conference halls were changed and a shopping mall has come into being. We had a single banquet hall and now we have two banquet halls, and we were planning on having an observation deck and an observation saloon, one was interior and the other one was exterior and now we have converted the interior observation saloon into a seven star hotel which has about seven star category rooms. So the design has now changed. We had to bear the additional cost which was US$9.3 million. So the total cost stands at US$113.5 million,” said Manawadu.

He pointed out that the Detail Designs of Nelum Kuluna was done by Chinese Professionals and comprehensively reviewed by the Consultants from Project Consultancy Unit, Faculty of Architecture, University of Moratuwa. It was a joint effort of Sri Lankan consultants and Chinese Design and Build Contractors. So the interior of Nelum Kuluna has Sri Lankan and Chinese hybrid characteristics. If you look at the paintings those are Sri Lankan paintings. The lighting system are of course Chinese.

         Rotating restaurant

“Present Lotus Tower is based on our conceptual design, despite several improvements by the Chinese. At the inception, we prepared a conceptual design for the multifunctional broadcasting and transmission tower, along with a Disney styled theme park. TRCSL submitted the said proposal to Sri Lankan Embassy in China to look for a prospective proposal. CEIEC, the present contractor, submitted an unsolicited proposal based on Design & Build contract. After completing the procedural nitty-gritties, contract was awarded to them. After the award, they prepared Detail Designs and professionals from the Project Consultancy Unit (PCU) of University Moratuwa reviewed them and approved for construction. PCU approval was a prerequisite for construction works. At the climax, there were around 500 Chinese workers deployed for construction works. .

“Performing the role entrusted to us, we had to do a parallel designs with Chinese. We were following the British Standards and the European codes, and the Chinese code was completely different, thus there were disagreements from time to time. We did not accept the Chinese code. We insisted they had to follow our standard –The British standard and European code,” said Manawadu.

       Interior designs

Manawadu further stated that in creating Nelum Kuluna, the Sri Lankan Tourism Industry is really being supported. In any country tourists are bound to visit the tallest tower. In being one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the country, foreigners will come in droves to see the Lotus Tower.

“When you get on top of the observation deck the view is spectacular. You cannot get that view from any other location and this makes Nelum Kuluna unique because the view it gives is simply unbelievable. Colombo opens up in an unbelievable way. By naked eye you can see the Kalutara Bodhiya. You can see up to the airport with the naked eye. You can see the Malwana Mountain range with the naked eye and I am going to erect eight telescopes in the near future. The Chinese have promised me a total completion in the next two months and by that time we will fix up the telescopes. These high powered telescopes will really offer a view that has never before seen. At the moment with the naked eye you can see the Sri Pada ranges and so many other sites. And with these high powered telescopes it will give a better view,” explained Manawadu.

Manawadu pointed out that at the moment he is receiving so many requests from people who want to book the banquet hall.

“Even right now I am being bombarded with requests and this is before the completion of Nelum Kuluna. They want to reserve a banquet hall for the son’s or daughter’s wedding! That demand is there. And we also have a revolving restaurant. And this is unprecedented in Sri Lanka. At the moment it is Rs. 8000 a plate in Colombo. But the way this is going a plate can be sold for Rs. 15,000 rupees. Sometime back I was involved in a project in the Maldives. We put up the tallest building in the Maldives also. If a Maldivian gets the Lotus Tower banquet hall for a wedding that is business for the airline and other hotels,” pointed out Manawadu.

Interior designs

Manawadu stated that already the hype generated by the Lotus Tower is tremendous. He stated that on inauguration night almost a 1000 people had gathered near the gates. Someone had spread the rumor that immediately Lotus Tower would be opened to the public after inauguration ceremony. The security had been unable to control the traffic. Some people had even climbed the antennae mast. Some people have forcefully entered and even climbed the tower.

“The original concept came in 2008. One of my colleagues a Professor told me the Telecommunications Regulatory commission is going to put up a tower. He had been requested to design the tower. He is a Professor attached to the Telecommunications department.

“He knew it would not be designed by them. He passed the message to the Director General Telecommunications. So I went and met him and discussed his ambitious plan. So I told him I am capable of handling the architectural component. But I told him I was not capable of handling the engineering component of it. At that time the tallest building was the Twin Towers – 150m. This too was designed by the Singaporean architects/ engineers. So then he took me to the president, Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse. He asked me to get the Sri Lankan engineers into the design team. All the senior professors of University Moratuwa were in my design team. We designed with the Chinese Engineers and when it came to the construction part of it, we got the engineers from the industry. So the technology was transferred to both the academics as well as to the engineers of the industry,” explained Manawadu.

He pointed out again that the likes of such as a building has not been seen in Sri Lanka. When the project was shifted from Peliyagoda to Colombo there were slight changes in the facilities. At Peliyagoda there were mainly conference halls and seminar rooms at the tower base. But when it was shifted to Colombo you get ample conference halls and seminar rooms in Colombo. So it was changed to shopping malls. There is now room for 42 shops ground level. It can be rented by anybody. So now there are no conference halls. But there is an exhibition hall with room for 500 people and now there are also two banquet halls (interconnected) instead of one banquet hall at Peliyagoda. The respective owners of the shops will of course design their own interiors. There will be three museums – Museum of telecommunication/ technology, national heritage and anthropology and archival.


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