Selected Entries 2018

Reintegrate Through Culture-The Islamic Centre for Social Integration in Sri Lanka

Naflaa Fahim
City School of Architecture | Colombo

The Islamic Center for Social Integration at Colombo in Sri Lanka aims to be a space that promotes, exhibits and enhances the cultural lifestyle of the Sri Lankan Islamic culture while harmoniously integrating them with the entire population. Social Integration is facilitated through the resignation, exploration and exhibition of culture that has been lost or forgotten over the period of time since the arrival of the Persians moors in the 7th Century A.D through the descent of the Javanese and Malays in the 17th century A.D to the arrival of the Bohras and Memons in the 19th century A.D.

Each location or region features its own uniquely diverse Islamic culture that together would combine to form the Islamic Culture of Sri Lanka which will harmoniously integrate itself to the vibrant and rich Sri Lankan culture.

This culture tends to surface in the form of art forms and their distinctive way of life. Therefore the project aims to contribute in part to abolish the cultural divide and misconceptions as well as misinterpretations of this pocket of society.

In Sri Lanka too the client body identifies such a culturally rich and diverse Muslim society that needs to be cognizant of their culture while working towards the harmony and prosperity of the country.

“Architecture never derived its force from stability of culture, but rather from the expression of those moments when that sense of stability slipped”-Mark Wigley

While the existing context caters to some functions such as prayer halls, ablution ponds, ancillary facilities, as well as quarters and offices for the imam that caters to the needs of the Islamic community, the space does not cater to the amalgamation of different cultures and needs of the general public. Therefore the provision of facilities such as a library, computer labs, auditoriums as well as meeting spaces and experimental workshops help assimilate different cultures through exposure and awareness building with regard to the values as well as social and cultural contributions of the Islamic community and their way of life.

Moreover, although the government addressed the issue of the urban sprawl by provision of vertical buildings it served to disrupt the lifestyle of the existing community in the slumps and the nature of their relationships with their neighbors. This disruption in their behavioral pattern quickly added to the every present issues of congestion and pollution.


The needs of the inhabitants for a more public, integrated community space for gathering, meeting, playing as well as engage in community activities represented a long suppressed unmet requirement. The lack of such a space tended to cause abandonment of apartment style homes in favor of slum dwellings and temporary structures surrounding the city limits. 


Thus, it can be theorized that provision of such a space for public combination and harmonious blending of the different subgroups of the community would serve to address the issue of abandonment of the current development projects and create a tightly knit community fostering mutual respect and understanding between the communities. A thriving commercial capital could be achieved by reducing animosity and friction between religious communities.


The existing mosque is to be elevated off the existing ground level concurrently creating a cultural market for the public comprising of several studios catering to the exploration of culture through art forms.  The symbolic elevation of religious activities while the ground level serves as a publicly accessible forum is conscious of the commonalities in the lifestyle of the people around who are a good mix of cultures, languages and art forms.

Hence, the project’s building form origins were derived through depiction of the existing characteristics of Havelock road and Mayura lane which eventually translates into a place of freedom, peace and tranquility for social integration to take place.