By Dinali Sugathadasa

Photography by Waruna Gomis

Along the Maitland Crescent in the heart of Colombo there’s one structure that instantly captures the eye from afar. A first glance at the Jaal Spa comes through the giant trees gracing its courtyard; a totally pristine white interior with striking floral patterns which flow through the complete space, all framed within a sheet of glass, the Spa captures you within its theatrical aura.

The Jaal Spa before being given a new face was the residence of renowned Architect Panini Tennekoon, and a pivotal piece of work in his career. The house, acquired by the client was handed over to Architect Arosha Perera in a state of disrepair together with a minimal budget and time constraints of a few months to be given new life.

A unique architectural piece, the original house gave an impression of a floating top floor and oneness with the exterior courtyard and interior of the house flowing in to one another. But it was quite in contrast to the key elements required of a hairdressing salon and spa.“It was a bit dark and hadn’t been used in a long time, there were no renovations done on the building, it was a bit claustrophobic” says Archt Perera. Recalling the design challenges of the project, he speaks of the gap between the floors that gives the floating feel to the house and the louvres on the top floor which were all against the aesthetics the Archt was in search of. These had to be changed but according to the Archt, “it was a shame and actually broke the logic of how the house worked.  But it was a necessity, because the client required a fully air-conditioned building and so it was a practical issue that had to be worked out”.

From the start, the Spa project was meant to stand out above the rest. Jaal is very much an image based design and speaking on his inspiration for the bewitching floral artwork, Archt Perera says, “for me it’s very much a feminine interior, it’s geared towards women, the idea of floral patterns came about because of that.”

The hairdressing salon and administrative area on the ground level is clothed in white, decorated in golden brown hues. As you move to the upper floor where the spa area is located it becomes darker and softer, more relaxed. “Its almost a religious sort of space” states Archt Perera adding that Jaal is still an ongoing project, with the unabridged ambience yet to be achieved.

Peering through the glass encasing, the framed trees on the outside create an allure for the customer looking out from within. Commenting on the feel within Jaal, of art fused with everyday life Archt Perera says,“what we’re trying to create is theatre within this realm and with stage two of Jaal we’ll take it to the next level.”

A majority of the interior and exterior structure and ambience of the house has remained the same with only essential changes done. With criticisms aimed at the alterations, which some believe has led to a loss of the original charm of the place, Archt Perera explains that even though the house may have lost its authentic purpose with the changes done, it now fulfills a new one, that of a hair salon and spa.