Building on the theme, ‘Architecture for all: City + Community,’ the National Conference of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (SLIA) underlined the role of architects in national development while emphasising community architecture and also highlighting past achievements in this field. Emerging issues and trends relating to the profession and the industry were also brought to light during the conference.
The National Conference, which is part of the Annual Sessions of the SLIA, Architect 2011, was held on 24 February, 2011 at the BMICH in the presence of Chief Guest, Archt. Ruth Reed, President of the Royal institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Guest of Honour, Archt. Shahab Ghani Khan, President of the Institute of Architects, Pakistan. The delegates from the Architects Regional Council Asia (ARCASIA) and eminent architects from India, Vietnam and Sweden participated as presenters at the event, which was also attended by Sri Lankan architects and government officials, other professionals and the public.
The keynote address was delivered by eminent architect / urban designer Prof. Raj Rewal from Delhi, India, who has made a great impact on the Indian cities and community through his architectural approaches for over several decades. His humanist approach to architecture responds to the complexities of rapid urbanisation, the demands of climate, cultural traditions and building crafts and technologies. His most recent publication is entitled Humane Habitat at Low Cost
Another overseas success story of works by Archt. Jamie Lerner was presented by Sri Lankan Architect Senaka Dharmathilake, who showcased how one could draw inspiration from such examples and adapt it to suit the Sri Lankan situation. The Brazilian architect, Lerner, who also served as mayor, is especially known for his ‘urban revolution’, where through design and technology, he transformed a grim, congested city into a model city of green living and innovation. In addition, presentations were also made by prominent local and international architects.
With the Government of Sri Lanka focused on rapid development, after the end of the conflict, the theme is both timely and relevant, said Archt. Chandana Edirisuriya, President of SLIA elaborating on the objectives of the National Conference. In addition to infrastructure development, the Government has initiated projects especially aimed at benefiting the community, such as housing and urban resettlement programmes. The government’s initiative to provide proper housing complete with sanitation facilities to shanty dwellers is commendable, said Archt. Edirisuriya and the land liberated from this exercises could be utilised for new development activities. However, development and in particular, resettlement, need to be done in a planned and systematic manner, while being sensitive to socio cultural conflicts that may arise as a result of this.
Noting that the architects have a greater role to play in such development, Archt. Edirisuriya stated, “We have ample human resources. We urge the government to obtain the services of architects in implementing urban regeneration projects or when developing new townships to ensure more planned development.” He further added, “We felt that it is important for us to communicate to the government our contribution upto now in this front.” As such, the National Conference will highlight past achievements in community architecture, development of architectural philosophies that shaped neighbourhoods, towns and cities for the enjoyment of all, emerging issues which need creative approached in design and technology, emerging trends in architecture as a response to changing circumstances and formulation of research themes or propositions that could widen the scope of architects’ role in community architecture.
Emphasising on some of projects carried out in the past by local architects in the sphere of community development, Archt. Edirisuriya stated, “During the tsunami and floods, the SLIA was very actively involved in rebuilding efforts and as testimony to this, there are a number of very successful neighbourhoods and buildings designed in the East and South by our architects. Our members have made a huge contribution following these events, by way of building houses, schools etc. Perhaps these are not communicated adequately to the government. Therefore, we realised that this was a good opportunity for us to communicate especially to policy makers as well as the public that we have been involved in such projects and also highlight the capabilities, expertise and capacities of the local architects and what they can offer for community development.”
The Annual Sessions of SLIA also featured the Inauguration Ceremony (23 February, 2011), Architects’ Work and Trade Exhibition (24 to 27 February, 2011 at BMICH), the Annual General Meeting (26 February at BMICH) and the Fellowship Night (26 February at Cinnamon Lakeside).