by Anisha Niyas | Photography by Sanka Sammana

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge commissioned architect Anura Ratnavibushana to design a memorial for her late husband, Vijaya Kumaratunge in Katunayake in 1991-1992.

The memorial is a 27 feet x 90 feet rectangular area, with stone walls enclosing the space and ivy left to grow on the walls, making it a calm, green place. Two pavilions marking the entrance double up as a place of refuge from harsh sun and rain. Commenting on this Ratnavibhushana says, “As he was both a politician and an actor, I incorporated the pavilions for the people who visited the memorial, to be able to sit and reflect.”

The stainless steel sculpture fashioned with thin tubes to spray a fine mist of water, is the focus at the end of the memorial. This is placed to face east, to gleam in the pristine morning sun, making morning the best time to visit the place. The sculpture is set against a granite wall to highlight it, with a horizontal granite platform in front. A curtain of water trickles down the rough surface of the wall.

From the entrance portal, just abutting the road, one has to gradually climb up three levels to reach the sculpture podium, each level forming a flat terrace. A formal tree lined avenue defines this path. The garden design accommodated foliage that would need minimum pruning. This, the architect thought would eventually allow filtered sunlight into the terraces, enhancing the experience.

The outer wall facing the road is punctured by the entrance portal, marked by a stainless steel transparent gate and a thick white plaster band wrapping it. This according to the architect symbolises the white ‘Thorana’ of Sri Lankan funeral processions, subtly indicating the purpose of this structure to a passerby. The outside wall towards the open land next to the memorial ends with a jagged plaster finish – a violent representation of the manner in which he was assassinated.

Vijaya Kumaratunga’s exuberance is celebrated in a quiet, contemplative place, where the public who loved him, both as an actor and a politician, can come and visit.

Architect (Concept, Design & Details): Anura Ratnavibhushana

Consultants (Project Management):

Tanya & Suren Wickremasinghe Associates, Chartered Architects

Structural Design: Engineering Consultants Ltd

Design – Stainless Steel Sculpture: Laki Senanayake

Contractor: Tudawe Brothers

Client: Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge