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Civic Mall Pettah (CMP), Colombo, Sri lanka.

Part 1 Project 1999
Gishan Ratnayake
University of Moratuwa Moratuwa Sri Lanka
The proposed site for CMP lies in the bazaar district of Colombo. Established by the Dutch in the eighteenth century, “Pettah” is now home to retail and wholesale trade. Except the Dutch period museum which has direct link to the proposed CMP site, all traces of the Dutch Architecture in “Pettah” has vanished.

The fascinating feature of the urban fabric at “Pettah” is the network of alleyways and pedestrian paths that are independent from street grid iron.

The main objective of this project was focused on creating a public gathering space for civic use. To achieve this it is attempted to reinforce the existing circulation system through the new development, by creating a new alleyway which connects existing corridors to a public open space -an oasis. It incorporates the unique spatial qualities of an alleyway. The existing Dutch period museum is used only as a backdrop, and connect to the proposed city museum at basement level. The proposed building has built and un-built gathering places, at the focal point of space organisation. It is a place where one meets a friend, stops to buy a drink or a meal, makes a business deal, or simply takes a rest: it is in fact a new heart for Pettah.

Gishan Ratnayake

The design for the Civic Mall in Pettah by Gishan Ratnayake comprised his submission for the Comprehensive Design Project (CDP)for BSc Built Environment (Part 1)

The Comprehensive Design Project occurs within the context of an overall design theme. The theme selected for this year was ‘architecture as fabric.’ The notion of fabric is based on two basic principles. First, it connotes the concept of a larger scheme of things, as expressed by terms such as ‘system’ or ‘setting’: the idea of looking at the object at hand as part of a broader, holistic pattern, and not in isolation. Second, a fabric is a complex and composite arrangement, as evidenced in words such as ‘weave’ or ‘tissue’.

The frenetic bazaar activity and the dense urban fabric of Pettah presents a special challenge to the designer. In this project, the task was expanded by the necessity to respond and connect to the conserved Dutch Museum at the rear of the site.

Gishan’s project derived immense inspiration from the character of the place – the winding alleyways, qualities of light trickling down narrow courts, and the funnelling of people through the bowels of buildings. His task was to create an oasis in the city – a cooling down place. This he did by interpreting all the spatial characteristics of the place in a manner that held space, created pauses, and calmed the frenzied activity.

His project is very much part of the fabric, yet a striking building. It is uncompromisingly contemporary, and yet makes fine conversation with the old Dutch Museum across a courtyard.

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