By Dimithri Wijesinghe
Port City Colombo, the city development built as an extension of Colombo, is said to be potentially one of South Asia’s premier residential, retail, and business destinations offering incredible planned city living.
Built on an area spanning 269 hectares of reclaimed land from the sea, the development will comprise five different precincts: Financial District, Central Park Living, Island Living, The Marina, and International Island.
When completed, Port City Colombo is projected to have over 5.6 million square metres of built space. Built according to sustainable city designs and smart city concepts, it is expected to become one of the most liveable cities in South Asia.
With this vision in mind, the Port City Student Design Competition was initiated under the theme “Envision The Future” in an attempt to celebrate the importance of design in the planning and development process of Port City Colombo. This aims to “portray the city of the future through the eyes of a gifted younger generation”.
The competition invited Sri Lankan artists to contribute ideas for two of Port City’s new public displays – namely the “Dream” and “Vitality” – which are meant to be celebrations of design and innovation.
Six finalists were shortlisted under the categories of Dream Beach Competition and Vitality Interactive Wall Competition, and were given the support and guidance from the competitions’ elite jury, along with other experts comprising contemporary artist and designer Anoma Wijewardene, architect Ruchi Jayanatham, textile designer Shilanthi Abayagunawardana, and Atkins Associate Director Xia Yuan.
The winners were announced via a livestream, the Virtual Award Ceremony of “Envision the Future” Student Design Competition 2020, with the winners being awarded a cash prize of Rs. 300,000. The winning designs will be constructed at Port City’s Marina District.
We reached out to the winners of both categories, giving them the opportunity to take us through the creative thinking behind their incredible designs.
The winning concept for the beach sculpture “Lodiya” was submitted by Viranga Waduge, Tharindu Perera, and Pulasthi Handunge, architecture students from the City School of Architecture. The trio shared that the structure narrates the change of time designed with kinetic steel components and copper sheets.
Pulasthi went into detail about the concept note, explaining his thinking behind the project. He said the structure spoke of the nature of Port City – how to some it is a change they do not want, where they don’t accept it, and how there is resistance amongst some others. But there are also others who look forward to the change. We see here the difference in opinion amongst the same – Sri Lankans.
Regardless of the warring factions, as a budding architect and a creative, Pulasthi urged that we take a look at our history and our culture, noting that our value system is evolving from the changes we have faced over the years. He said there was a time when King Vijaya came down and created settlements, also noting that even before him, however, there were those who had their own way of life and they too may have resisted. Nevertheless, as time went on, those changes were accepted. He said that our present situation has resulted from these eras of change.
Pulasthi said that in their creation, what they wished to do was highlight the change that is a constant and is inevitable. He said there are two main concepts that great importance is given to – “we live in our present, think of our past, and hope for our future” – adding that change is an amalgamation of these three aspects, and so they came up with a design that could “change with time but also stay constant”.
Once they had the thought for a kinetic structure, they had to think of a material that changed with time – the kind of change you are able to visually track. So they settled with copper. He said that with time, copper oxidises, creating a patina layer – it takes time, creating an experience.
You will first see it as a bright shiny structure, which will be the first experience. Giving it a few years, one will experience it in a completely different and new light. The structure, surrounded by the set of copper rings, is a globe which Pulasthi said is made of stainless steel and therefore will not change. This, he said, is the representation of “hope” that people always have for the future, which is a constant.
Viranga too added her thoughts, stating that she contributed to the research component of the project while giving credit to her two collaborators, Pulasthi and Tharindu, as the designers.
She shared their project would be a first in Sri Lanka of this nature. Of course, kinetic structures can be done in smaller scales, but this would be the first in such a scale. Kinetic art is art from any medium that contains movement perceivable by the viewer or that depends on motion for its effect.
She shared that both Pulasthi and Tharindu had their initial sketches, and while they made attempts to make improvements, especially once they were selected for top three, the initial sketch was what they always came back to. She said that in the research component, which was her responsibility, she looked into the practical aspects of it, some historical accounts, and the material.
Speaking with Tharindu, he said that his contribution to the project was regarding the structural and proportional parts of their overall structure. However, as they had been given some basic guidelines such as height restrictions and size limitations, they have had to downsize it from the originally much larger structure in mind.
He shared that what they have is a futuristic structure, and therefore they adopted a variety of international methodologies, utilising digital fabrication. They have had to get an engineer involved, their friend Pasindu who lent his expertise, to help them stay within the parameters set by the limitations of constructions in Sri Lanka.
Tharindu said that we in Sri Lanka have limits to our construction work; there is a traditional way it is done here and so he shared that as students, he believes these traditions are meant to be broken. By doing so is how they gain recognition to the Lankan potential that is laying in abundance in the island, he said, adding that he also believes that this kind of exposure would allow them to explore their horizons.
They shared that they were all briefed on the location where they would have to eventually erect their structure, if the participants were to win.
Wall of Bubbles
The winner of the Interactive Wall category, “Wall of Bubbles” is a design of an air bubble-inspired wall courtesy of Javaneesan R. who is currently an undergraduate of the University of Moratuwa.
An interactive wall is when someone stands before the wall, it emits a form of response – a simple-enough concept, said Javaneesan, adding that essentially, the basic concept is where they will install a sensor that will detect movement, allowing for their “wall” to react. His chosen medium happens to be a wall that is pretty much a tank filled with water, where they will install nozzles which produce bubbles, and these bubbles will mimic movements detected via the sensor and visually represent it.
He said that to him and to many others, Port City represents something dynamic, much like the way bubbles that are created in the depths of the ocean make their way up to the surface, and he wishes to insert this dynamic character he saw in the bubble.
Speaking about the scientific and practical sides to the matter, Javaneesan stated that he pulled from his learnings of “responsive architecture”, the practice of integrating technology and design in real-life electronic and engineering fields. He also shared that although what he has conceptualised may seem like major high technology for many Sri Lankans, internationally these are simple mechanics that are even utilised at the school level.
The development of the design will be given to a contractor, he said, adding that he is honoured to have won the competition. He said it was truly an impartial competition as it allowed for an equal opportunity for all who participated.