‘SL’s architects overlooked for major, local construction projects’

‘Sri Lankan architects are capable, effective and knowledgeable and are in demand for foreign assignments. For instance, a Sri Lankan architect was assigned the task of building the Indian High Commission in China. They have many similar projects to their credit. But the construction industry here has not assigned on- going projects to locals, president, Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (SLIA) D.H. Wijewardene said.


Wijewardne was speaking recently at Architecture Xtudio’s annual conference held at the Hilton, Colombo. Keynote speakers’ general views were that quite apart from the general perception that the high rise construction industry was tottering, growing limitations on land available to build houses and prominent condominiums were the unavoidable emerging trends in the local real estate sector.


Colombo’s population was about one million persons but the land space to accommodate this population base was limited, they explained.


Added to such limitations, unplanned road networks, helter-skelter chaotic condition of public amenities and undisciplined settlement activities were hindering meaningful real estate development, the forum was given to understand.


Chairman Condominium Developers Association of Sri Lanka Pradeep Moraes said contrary to doomsday prophets, condominiums ( condos) would not be the alternative to housing. Rather the sustainability of the condo industry, subject to good planning, was the issue. He named projects completed and said occupancy was around 90 percent.


He added: ‘Construction industry standards were now operative in an advanced level of technological improvement. Gone are the days of bricks and mortar.


‘The rising sky line in Colombo was proof of upgraded building standards in consonance with German requirements, he said.


President, Chamber of Construction Industry Ranjith Gunatilleke confirmed that most high rises employed foreign architects because local professionals’ fees were extremely high. Additionally, he said, delivery of the end product was lackadaisical. This did not mean local architect professionals here were below the required standards. ‘Most condo constructions employed foreign architects because their adherence to a given time frame was efficiently managed, he said.


He added – ‘The trend was that architects from Singapore were assigned because of their cost-effective quotations.


‘As for the planning aspect, in the Singapore context, city planning was in a planned environment for the next 25 years, conducive to planned infrastructure development.’


The panel discussion was chaired by Fowzi Kandrikar. It included D.H.Wijewardene, Director, Dusit Thani, Ajit Wijesinghe, MICD Associates, Murad Ismail, MD Lamudi Sri Lanka, Anne Marie Hermans, CEO, Research Intelligence Unit, Roshan Madawela, Ranjith Gunatilleke, and Pradeep Moraes.


Constructions, and architects were discussed in depth at the panel discussion. Architect Geoffrey Bawa and his impact on architecture both here and abroad, and the fact that he was in demand during his time, were part of these discussions. The question asked was could this country not produce another architect of the stature of Geoffrey Bawa.


Constructions and high rises’ influences on tourism were also discussed. Panelist Murad Ismail said tourism, particularly private tourism, prospered, in for example, the Maldives, Bali, where no questions were asked, whichever way they wished to enjoy their stay. He agreed these places were more appealing than Sri Lanka.

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