while preserving culture

Tropical architecture has traditionally been taken to mean architecture adapted to the tropical climate.

Vernacular structures, are in essence “architecture without architects”. Built by anonymous local craftsmen, using local techniques and materials, the structures are well adapted to the extremes of climate and their particular environmental setting. Their form and proportions, craftsmanship and decorations are symbolic and meaningful.

After the second world war, some architects building in the tropics began to conceive of architecture not only in-terms of sun-shading and ventilation devices, but also an extension of the mind, a cognitive tool, that expresses the values of a person and time in the way that films, art and music do. This critical re-thinking is what distinguishes, a mere tropical architecture from a tropicalist one.

Tropicalist architecture has emerged in great part as a response to two major challenges that have arisen since Second World War. The first is post colonialism and the second and more recent challenge is globalisation. Post-colonialism and globalisation involve the issues of identity and distinctiveness in a cultural world predetermined with power and fierce competitiveness within society.

It is fair to say that the impact of globalisation has, most generally, been viewed in a pessimistic light because it has been associated with the destruction of cultural identities, accelerating encroachment of a homogenised, westernised, consumer culture. However, viewed in a contradictory light globalisation, far from destroying culture, has been perhaps the most significant force in creating and proliferating cultural identity.

It is important that building form, architectural style detailing and materials contribute to the character of an area. This should contribute toward distinctiveness and avoid development that could be found anywhere. New buildings should fit into context and make a positive contribution to their surroundings. Where no overriding context exists, efforts should be made to create positive and distinctive character to the locality with the roots in the local character of the district cultures are neither good nor bad. There is no culture that is pure and has no outside influence whatsoever.

What merits our special attention is how to keep and promote native culture under globalisation. The priority is to enhance the cultural awareness of native people, make them cherish and glory in one’s country’s culture as then, no matter what influence globalisation exerts, native culture will not be replaced. Changing cultures is also a form of evolution.

Peshali Perera