- Palinda Kannangara on his achievement and more
Palinda Kannangara Architects is an award-winning Sri Lankan architecture firm known for its experiential architecture that hinges on simplicity and connection with the natural environment. Born in 1970 in Kolonnawa, Sri Lanka, Palinda Kannangara has an extensive background in mathematics and architecture. He majored in mathematics for his Bachelor of Science degree, and later discovered that his primary calling was elsewhere. So in 1994, he joined a study course conducted by the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects to realise his dream.
Kannangara was recently contacted by El Croquis, a prestigious international magazine that features leading architects from around the world. The magazine itself has been around for 40 years and publishes five volumes per year, so it is truly an honour to be recognised by such a magazine.
When speaking to Kannangara on this achievement, he told us that the magazine had only featured one Asian artist before – from India (Studio Mumbai) – so his achievement is quite the feat. Sharing his thoughts on this, he said: “It’s quite an honour. They had only gone through my work and wanted to feature me in the monograph, so it is a big achievement for our country.”
He further explained that one cannot contact or invite them, the magazine alone has to decide. Kannangara was noticed due to the recent award he received two years consecutively in 2019 from the Royal Institute of British Architects for “Best International Studio”. Kannangara also added that although it’s called a magazine, it’s more of a book – they call it a magazine as it has volumes released throughout the year.
When talking about how it was like working with El Croquis, he shared: “A team of photographers and editors from the magazine visited Sri Lanka to gather more information and pictures of my work and selected 12 of my projects to feature.” The monograph will have an essay penned by Architect Anura Rathnavibushana, an interview, as well as a detailed list of the chosen projects. He added that this issue will feature 12 works, including several houses, a wellness retreat, holiday bungalows, an artist’s retreat, and staff quarters for a wind power plant.
As a student, Kannangara trained under Sri Lankan modernist architect Anura Rathnavibushana, who had worked with Geoffrey Bawa for 16 years, which is why he had contributed to the magazine to be featured.
Kannangara established an independent practice in 2005, a year after receiving his charter. His studio is now located in Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka, and the firm’s work has been recognised for its contextual sensitivity, experimental use of materials, and a minimalism that reflects the Sri Lankan ethos. The firm Palinda Kannangara Architects has been the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Golden Emerging Architect Award, Sri Lanka instituted by A+D and CERA, and the Emerging Architect Asia Award by Architecture Asia (2014, 2016). Palinda Kannangara Architects have been on India’s AD50 list of best practices in the subcontinent for three consecutive years (2015, 2016, and 2017). More recently the firm has been awarded the first prize in 2A Awards Asia and Merit Award Azure Canada, First Prize residential category in Geoffrey Bawa Awards.
The practice, now more than 15 years old, has deliberately remained small and personalised. Its design and work process is always deeply connected to the site. Brunch asked Kannangara to take us through his journey as an architect and how he made such a name for himself. He told us that over the years, the firm has worked across the island of Sri Lanka on a wide range of projects, often small in scale. With its personalised approach, the studio imbues each project with a sense of connectedness to the context, region, climate, and landscape using locally available materials and technology to provide a rich spatial experience.
Sharing more, he stated: “The studio’s architecture essentially focuses on capturing and expressing the spirit/magic of the place, whether it is a marsh, a cliff, or an urban landscape. The site is the generator of all its ideas, and lies at the heart of the design process.” Its architecture is always an intuitive reading of the site and aims to combine both the visceral and the pragmatic. The process is manual, employing a series of detailed drawings and sketches done on-site for working purposes and also physical models built in the office. Palinda Kannangara Architects’ designs are never frozen: they continue to evolve ‘on site’.”