FuturArc Interview

Nov-Dec 2015


Architect and Urban Designer, Sri Lanka

by Dr Nirmal Kishnani

Madhura Prematilleke, at one point, was seen to be anti-Bawa by some in the architecture fraternity in Sri Lanka. This was a misreading of his position on the well-known Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa. In an interview with FuturArc editor-in-chief, Dr Nirmal Kishnani, he explains why the Bawa legacy is complex. It is of deep significance to his country yet, at the same time, distracting architects from pressing issues at hand. Prematilleke studied architecture at Moratuwa and Helsinki, and has worked in Sri Lanka, Finland, India, China, Oman and the Maldives. He has won numerous design awards and his work has been published internationally; his was the only Sri Lankan project featured in The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary Architecture (2004). His recent works include the Royal Bakery on Galle Road in Colombo, and the Jaffna Cultural Centre (2010), now under construction.

NK: Let’s start with your work: projects and process. What guides you?
I believe that we’ve been over-building and over-consuming. If we cut down on our consumption, we will be sustainable. It’s an oversimplification but that’s the way I see it. If you build less, if you build on less, you will become sustainable.

In my work, I try to cut down the brief as far as possible. You look at how spaces can be used in different ways and at different times. Sometimes we succeed; in the best cases we cut it halfway.

I also build on half the site; I never build a footprint that is bigger than half the site. We’ve been through a long war that taught us to be frugal, to not over-build. And to build in a way that things can be taken away and replaced in the future.

My take on sustainability is to suppress the ego. Obviously you build for your hopes but you must also control ambition.


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