Selected Entries 2019

Object(s) of Reconciliation

Ritu Kelekar
School of Environment and Architecture | Mumbai

Throughout history, regions have always been defined by their architecture. It becomes a medium to express their social and civic values, political histories and technological advances. The question arises when the conflict of identity among people themselves within a given particular region still exists. Whose identity does one then cater to? Whose beliefs get expressed? Is the answer an amalgamation of the two?

Such was the case for Colombo. With the need for development as a growing economy, the newly created opportunities attracted the Sinhalese as well as the Tamils. Through its political history and playing on the fear of suppression of religion, culture, language and economy the Sinhalese have risen up to be the largest ethnic group in Colombo today. With their cultural and religious differences, one sees the influence of the Mahabalipuram temples on the Hindu temples in the city and on the other hand the Buddhist temples take the language of Stupas that usually hold Buddha’s relics, the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque located in the market district of Colombo with its striking red and white stripes screams for attention and the St. Lucia’s Cathedral traces renaissance architecture with corinthian columns supporting a pediment and an ovoidal dome emulating St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican. Under such circumstances, does one further suppress the identity of the minority to heed to the already prominent majority ?

As a response to the above mentioned discussion I decided to work with a language that comes from an awareness of the site’s context and historical legacy/but also taking the artistic liberty to work between the memory and rebirth.

With the site being in a housing scheme, I scaled my ‘objects’ in relation to the existing building being mindful of the program they were catering for and delicately layered and inlaid them within an existing unused playground that was designed for the complex. In the case of ‘Objects of Collaboration’ I derived my language from various hand drawn aspirations from the kids residing within the complex with an intention to create or initiate curiosity that would lead to a dialogue or to create chance encounters through multiple pause points. Thus arose the language of strange looking abstract ‘objects’ that are nonetheless sited within the proportions of the given context. In the case of ‘An Urban Living Room’ I borrowed elements that were used for single households to adapt to the climatic conditions of Sri Lanka in vernacular architecture like the courtyards, ventilators with wooden louvers and huge overhangs and then explored and twitched them to suit the scale of the project while simultaneously adding new advances in technology like adding thermal mass in the roof to hold the heat, double roofing system and green roofs to bring down the ambient temperature within the infrastructure. Materials vary from wood to concrete to metal to terrazzo depending on the purpose of usage and the effective cost of the structure.