Sri Lankan architects say post-tsunami reconstruction has ignored the coastal community’s social makeup and small neighbourhood lifestyles.
Sri Lanka Institute of Architects President Rukshan Widyalankara says the island’s population live in a small neighbourhood setup, with each household establishing its “status” through the size, structure and contents of their homes.
“Neighbourhoods thrive on the concept of being better than each other and competing to outdo their neighbour.”
Widyalankara says though basic housing was the immediate need in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami which damaged or destroyed over 100,000 homes, ignoring the social aspects of how they lived would have a mid to long term negative effect on the community.
The Association’s chief says some families will eventually leave their post-tsunami homes for bigger, better quarters.
This situation could lead to other social problems like a drop in job creation, a drain in entrepreneurship and capital investments even in small projects like groceries.
Instead, Widyalankara says donor and government agencies involved in the reconstruction effort should have designed a basic unit for the immediate need, while leaving provision in the design to add extensions.
“Home owners can then build another bedroom or extend their living-room, kitchen and so on based on their incomes, helping each household to distinguish itself from another.”
Out of Style
Less than five percent of buildings approved for constructions in the island are designed by architects, says Widyalankara.
“… this leads to badly built buildings that affect the overall look of neighbourhoods and even to bad physical and mental health.”
Widyalankara says architects can help correct this situation, but a general perception that their services are very expensive, has builders opting for self designed projects or turning to the industry’s “quacks” offering cheaper alternatives.
“The public needs to know the perils of bad design and that getting a professional to design their homes leads to long term cost savings…” says Widyalankara.
“…for instance, quite a few home owners have to make modification to a completed house due to flaws in the design which causes inconvenience to the occupants.”
-Shafraz Farook: email@example.com