Blending traditional elements with contemporary aesthetics
Damith De Silva in conversation with Nicola Jayasundera
He is enthused by Sri Lanka’s rich architectural heritage and cultural diversity. And Damith De Silva’s interest in architecture is the result of being inspired by renowned architects, aesthetic appreciation, and the fusion of art and science.
His desire is to contribute meaningfully to the built environment and people’s lives; De Silva aims to evoke an emotional connection and encourage others through his work. And he hopes to inspire a sense of beauty, wonderment and possibility in viewers by inviting them to reflect on their experiences.
Q: How did you become interested in this profession?
A: I developed a passion for architecture at a young age since I was fascinated by the built environment and its impact on people’s lives. The intersection of art and science in architecture combines artistic expression with technical knowledge such as structural integrity, sustainability and spatial design.
Its multidisciplinary nature enables me to engage both my creative and analytical sides, and contribute to society by creating spaces that foster human connection and respond to evolving community needs.
Q: What are the major obstacles to the development of architecture, design and construction?
A: Architecture and construction projects face challenges due to financial constraints, complex planning and zoning regulations, and environmental sustainability. Architects must adopt eco-friendly practices, minimise energy consumption, optimise resource efficiency and integrate renewable technologies, while maintaining project viability and aesthetics.
Modern projects require a deep understanding of engineering principles, and collaboration with structural, mechanical and electrical engineers. Effective communication and coordination among stakeholders are needed for successful project delivery. Architects must also comply with building codes and industry standards to ensure safety, accessibility and structural integrity.
The construction phase presents logistical issues, labour shortages and unforeseen site conditions. So architects need to anticipate challenges and work closely with contractors to find practical solutions that align with the project’s objectives.
Q: What’s your view on ongoing urban development?
A: Rapid urbanisation in Sri Lanka has led to economic growth, improved infrastructure and better living standards. There needs to be proper planning and land management to avoid issues such as traffic congestion and inadequate public services.
Encouraging mixed use developments, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods and green spaces can create sustainable urban environments. The preservation of cultural heritage sites and historical landmarks is essential for maintaining Sri Lanka’s unique identity.
Sustainable development practices such as energy efficient buildings, sustainable transportation systems and resilient infrastructure are necessary to minimise environmental impacts and enhance the quality of life. Public participation and community engagement are crucial for the creation of a more inclusive and equitable urban environment.
Q: How can the design community contribute to Sri Lanka’s post-COVID recovery?
A: Members of the design community can significantly contribute to Sri Lanka’s post-COVID recovery by focussing on healthier and safer environments, sustainable infrastructure, walkable neighbourhoods and accessible public spaces.
They can create eco-friendly buildings, implement rainwater harvesting systems and use locally sourced materials, to help reduce the country’s carbon footprint and bolster its resilience against future crises.
Designers can also repurpose existing buildings and structures, and adapt them to meet changing needs, and involve local communities in the design process. By encouraging cultural sensitivities and incorporating community inputs, they can create contextually appropriate and socially inclusive solutions.
Q: What are the current top trends and what will architecture look like in the next five years in Sri Lanka?
A: Sri Lanka’s architectural design will prioritise environmental sustainability, and focus on energy efficient buildings, renewable materials and green spaces. Innovative solutions such as passive cooling and solar panels will be explored. Traditional elements will be blended with contemporary aesthetics to create a cultural identity by using local materials and vernacular styles.
Advancements in technology will lead to smarter buildings that have incorporated automation to improve comfort, security and efficiency. Sustainable development and adaptive reuse projects will focus on repurposing old structures into new functional spaces.
Sri Lankan architecture will prioritise community-oriented spaces such as public parks and plazas to promote social interaction and wellbeing. Virtual reality will enhance the design process and facilitate client engagement. This will allow them to experience and visualise architectural designs prior to construction.