Holistic planning approach | Daily News


Holistic planning approach

Green shaded pathways
Green shaded pathways

Principal Architect of Russell Dandeniya Chartered Architects, Director of RDC Architects (Pvt) Ltd, Archt. Russell Dandeniya says hisimage of Colombo is medium rise three to four storied buildings in a city with a fusion of colonial historic building fabric with modern cozy public spaces. ArchWorld features Dandeniya who points out to mix development as the way forward for Colombo.

“If we want to make Colombo more vibrant, we have to extend the night life. We are a nation who is living happily, enjoying, celebrating and retaining close family ties and bonds with the extended families and friends. Therefore, I don’t like Friday fever in Sri Lanka. If anyone wants to create a night life, there should be designated pockets, spaces and regions. If the focus is on office buildings in Colombo, then we will have a dead city in the night. Therefore, correct mix of development accommodation, residential, office, retail commercial and entertainment of functional entities should be there. It should simply be an Asian brand of night life based on family life, as example Jayasalmi in India-rooftop night life which is a family- based night life, where they use mostly folk music. Some great cities of the world are dead in the night. It should be a vibrant and awakened city if we continue mix development, I am sure we will be the ‘Wonder of Asia’ with more control and a holistic planning approach,” said Dandeniya.

Dandeniya pointed out that what we see in Colombo – places like Marino Mall, Shangri-La, One Galle Face and Colombo City Center is more than an architectural trend - it responds to a free market economy driven by consumerism and profit motivation. However, he says that Colombo should retain its identity or its ‘poetic rhythm’, an identity that Colombo has built up over the years. Changes should complement the image of the city.

“I can see most of these high rises can be found anywhere in the consumerist world. I have seen many countries that have developed three- dimensional scale city models where one can simply fit it in to the collage of the city. I proposed several times to UDA to prepare 3D model for Colombo and Kandy incorporating all the buildings coming up, so the design will suit the local context. For me, Colombo is still today, a mostly green, historical layered simple city. Now, it is experiencing an unprecedented development boom. But development should focus on the human layer and human scale. I am confused about some of these developments. Why are we following these so -called developed cities such as New York, Kowloon, Shanghai, down town LA? If we try and imitate them, the human scale and soul of Colombo will be threatened, resulting in delightful cities but no soul. Therefore, we should not follow most of the contemporary city models. We have to rediscover who we are as Asians. Solutions should be more unique and genuine to its context, climate and people,” added Dandeniya.

When it comes to Port City, income generation global financial players will be attracted to this location. In that scenario, its success or failure will be decided by the global economy and political situation. As an architect it is premature for them to make predictions about the financial success or growth potential of Port City. But the exposure our younger generation will have in terms of capacity development, knowledge transfer and expose to modern techniques and technology is important. It involves collaboration by a team of experts, working collectively towards a most current state of the art city planning.

Dandeniya says that for him, it is an expert proposal which is totally international and surely not national. There is no local feel or pulse embedded into this international development, only the enormous exploring of business opportunities. Infrastructure, in terms of transport, electricity, main land interface and connection will be so crucial since Colombo city is even struggling when it comes to supporting itself.

He points out that it is not difficult to make Colombo a green city. Green has different meanings in terms of built environment. Colombo may be a green city for the moment with regards to some of the historical buildings which may be over 100 years. Most of these buildings are really green buildings. Vegetation and streetscapes are really important. In most parts of Colombo, we can see most of the roads on either side have huge trees merging their canopies. Most of the plots in Colombo are fairly large where lots of gardens are still maintained.

“I think maintaining the existing green and enhancing it with sustainable energy plans are important. Equally important is increasing the national forest cover that can reduce the urban carbon foot print. High rise buildings are coming right up to the road edge or building line because there are no proper regulatory measures. Take Venice, Siena, or Florence, see how cleverly they fuse the historical layers along with the landscape to create real green cities. We have to reinstate the soul of Colombo by introducing more green with the current development. Also, we need to follow a policy, which does not cater for one- time visitors. The city should be livable for long time city dwellers. The city should be for people and not vehicles and short -term visitors,” added Dandeniya

He says that from a planning point of view he supports centralization, but due to the scale of the city, decentralization and suburbanization would be ideal. This is because concentrated development caters to only a selected segment of the population. Decentralization should be done in a holistic manner taking into account the attitudes of the people. Decentralization could work one day gaining the good will of the people. But it needs to have that magnetic attraction. If we are decentralizing it could be considerable distances like Kalutara, Homagama, Kaduwela and Wattala. These sub centers should be self- oriented and self-sustained entities. Similarly, Dandeniya feels that we should link these peripheral cities together as a ring, saying he likes outer ring, highway network and proposed light, monorail and KV lines which support urban sub centers.

“Total Pedestrianizing of Colombo would be a great concept for all the planners who are following western models. However, we need to remember that Sri Lanka is very humid. Pedestrianizing is possible in Sri Lanka, only if we are willing to change our office and school hours. But I know that our attitudes should also change. Nobody will walk along a shaded arcade in day time and afternoons. This could be practical after 6 pm and probably before 10 am. But if we can carefully analyze our own character and design a city with wind corridors, wind harnessing, green shaded pathways and improve on our urban foliage cover that would be an answer. Also, we need to organize our transport system,” pointed out Dandeniya

Dandeniya suggested that we have to regulate the parking regulations in Colombo. With the limited road width and booming of high- rise developments, the roads become busy and congested. We have to think about parking. Everywhere where there are public amenities and spaces, we need to provide ample parking. We have to go for more concentrated parking layouts and proper planning for distribution.

“The evolution or the growth of the field of architecture relies on the architects’ ability to feel the pulse of the socio cultural, socio religious, socio economic, socio political, awareness of people. Technology is only one part of the equation. The Architect fraternity of Sri Lanka are fully equipped and ready to undertake any of the developments or modern technological usages. Some of us have been exposed to foreign cultures. If we get an equal playing field, I am sure we Sri Lankan Architects can do wonders. It is truly a process with tremendous opportunities to learn and practice. As Architects we need to expand on our knowledge and horizons Many of our Sri Lankan Architects have engaged in international projects and many Sri Lankan Architects have won international awards for their work,” explained Dandeniya

He pointed out that Solar power and other renewable energy sources could be an answer for Architects who aim to devise architectural strategies to cut down on energy consumption and who aim at sustainability. Some designs may have their own strong technical justification, because we are in a matrix of market driven society and the paradigm shift is from local to global.

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