“I am most grateful to my parents for naming me Panini, shortened by my close associates to Pani, means water in Hindi, a precious commodity readily available to all in the Universe, more precious than gold only a few rich enjoy.” Pani Tennakoon

My association with Pani goes back to a few decades. I came to know Pani at the Public Works Department where I was a regular visitor as my interest in architecture started developing. I made acquaintance with the architects there and they gave me all encouragement to proceed with architectural studies. Pani was not only a friend but also a mentor.

A proposal for the BMICH in watercolour

Pani remained in the Public Works Department later termed Buildings Department until his retirement in the 1980’s, where he expressed immense contentment having served in the government sector.

Pani was fortunate enough to reap a rare advantage of the association with Late Shirley De Alwis – architect of the Peradeniya University and the training he received from the University of Melbourne, where he received a gold medal for design excellence in the final year. His creations were of an exceptional style with a combination of traditional and modem architecture with aesthetically pleasing forms. He was an admirer of the ancient architecture of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods. His love for nature manifested in the buildings he designed for “Living with Nature” bungalows in wildlife parks.

“Pani’s skill for photography and painting was unmatched, Most of his building proposals were beautiful water colour paintings as much as they were trying to depict the architecture of the building. This soft spoken, immaculately dressed, talented Architect was a gentleman par excellence,” reminisces another of his contemporaries, Architect Upali Iddawela.

During a conversation Pani revealed to me the philosophy of the design of the Bandaranaike Samadhi at Horagolla where the rock depicts “the rough and frugal life of the ordinary folks in Sri Lanka which late Hon. SWRD Bandaranaike preferred to follow and the polished granite base on which the natural rock rests depicts the comfortable and cultural upbringing of his early life achieved through adherence to Panchaseela, as depicted by the five stone pillars”.

Among his colleagues Pani was held in high esteem and commanded respect from all sections of the society due to his integrity and humane qualities.

Archt. E.G. Dharmasiriwardane, FIA(SL)