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Library for the Visually Handicapped

Part 2 Project 2010
Darshana Rodrigo
City School of Architecture, Sri Lanka
Library for the Visually Handicapped
@ Slave Island, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Introduction –
Library facilities for the visually impaired in Sri Lanka are still at a very primitive stage. Therefore, the project plays a key inspirational role as the central library of a nationwide network of libraries that facilitate the visually handicapped community.

Client’s requirement –

Information centre - Braille & Digital library, Reference Chamber and Lending Facility.
Education Unit - Language, Computer, Library Management and special format books
production studies, Examinations Centre.
Productions Unit- Recording Facility for Audio books, Printing Facility for Braille and large print books, storage, sales and repairs unit.
Administrative and service spaces.

Users of the project
Approximately 3% of the population of Sri Lanka is considered to be visually impaired due to both Blindness & Low Vision.
The way these individuals perceive, use & appreciate space is very different to sighted persons.

Site and Surroundings
Site extent is 2230 sq m and borders three separate streets. Two important colonial buildings are found within the site area.
The site is located within a highly dense & a rundown residential district trapped by powerful forces such as an exclusive business district, a prominent private hospital, major city hotels and water bodies.
One of the main strengths is the existing historical built fabric with its mixed architectural language, proportions and character.
There exists a challenging and a highly integrated social fabric with many social problems.

Architectural Objectives and Solutions

The project aims at achieving two primary objectives:

-One or more of the remaining senses of a visually impaired individual becomes highly sensitive to his or her surroundings to compensate for the lack of vision. The project aims at studying, how these senses can be manipulated, to produce buildings that may be more compatible to this special user category. (Study of non visual attributes such as audible, tactile sensations and smells in architecture)

-Rejuvenation of the urban fabric in terms of using the historical buildings as the strength in order to solve both physical and social problems in the site.

Darshana Rodrigo

The aim of this project is threefold and the student has demonstrated his capabilities by handling all three aspects competently.
First, the project attempts to find ways of describing an architecture, which may be considered predominantly a visual art, to the visually impaired through other means of communications such as touch,smell and sound. Use of elements such as sound domes and meaningful use of textures and materials are evidence of that approach.

Second, it portrays the visually impaired who are still marginalized (even though efforts have been made in the recent past to improve their quality of life) as an important segment of society. The location of the project as well as the form bare witness to this.

Third, this project attempts to revitalize an area of the City of Colombo, which is economically valuable but in a dilapidated condition.

Further the student from the onset of the project had a firm conviction and good background knowledge of the task at hand and concerns for the social and psychological aspects of the problem.

It is our opinion that the student has been successful in finding reasonable solutions to all the three aspects and more importantly has been able open a dialogue on the subject of re-integrating less able people in the society with empathy rather than sympathy.


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