The Annual National Conference of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects was held on February 21, 2008. This year the event, titled ‘Architect the Initiator,’ attempted to explore an architecture that has become a catalyst for change and development. The distinguished speakers at the event endeavoured in their presentations to create a lively debate and discussion on the event’s main theme. The keynote speaker for the event was Archt Ulrik Plesner, and his presentation explored his work through the early years as a partner of Geoffrey Bawa and later to his present work in Israel.

There were two very distinct presentations from the main architectural education institutions of Sri Lanka. The Faculty of Architecture at the University of Moratuwa prepared a very interactive presentation of liberating the mind to enhance the process of design. The presentation by the students of the Colombo School of Architecture was a bit more solemn, and focused on the subject of urban regeneration in Mutwal.

Rajive Sethi’s presentation focused on his innovative contribution to preserving and celebrating South Asia’s rich cultural heritage. He brought attention to the plight of the fast diminishing skills of the traditional artists and artisans due to industrialisation and globalisation. We also got very insightful contributions from a Studio Time’s journalist Christopher Silva, whose presentation on our vanishing heritage gave the architectural community many thoughts to ponder and a challenge to take a closer look at conservation.

Deshamanya Vidyajyothi Archt Ashley de Vos, and Archt D H Wijewardene spoke of the plight of an architect as the initiator where his hands are often tied due to sheer political bureaucracy in our country. The presentations were thought- provoking. Archt Kishore Trivedi took us through the wonders of the Gujarati step wells, and Archt Georg Zielke opened our eyes to a comprehensive presentation of energy efficient building design.

Finally, a beautifully choreographed presentation by MMGS Architects gave the audience a more personal analysis into two very distinctive projects, a tsunami school and a very interesting landscape project, exemplifying the contribution architects can bring to society.