By Zeena Marikkar

The year 2007 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, the collective voice of the architectural fraternity of Sri Lanka. It was with much ado that this occasion was celebrated and many mementos were a part of the consequent events. A thought that was then barely a conception called for a mammoth undertaking which has now manifested in the form of a 536 page publication titled: IDENTITY: THE SRI LANKA ARCHITECT. It is a publication of Members’ work through the first 50 years of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects.

At a glance, the size of the book, although a little too weighty to handle, speaks volumes about the research that has gone into producing the publication. It also no doubt proves the wealth of contemporary architecture available in our community that deserved to be gathered and showcased, bound cover to cover.

The book opens with a TRIBUTE to the architects who strived hard in the profession over the past five decades and are no longer with us. The section features the works of well known names of our times, the likes of Geoffrey Bawa, Panini Tennakoon, Turner Wickramasinghe, Sunil Amendra, Lala Adithya, Suren Wickramasinghe and others who were pioneers of the architectural profession in our country. Their projects adorn the pages throwing a fresh light into the buildings and façades we take for granted ever so often. The painstaking efforts on the part of the publishers are clearly manifest in drawing these projects from numerous archives, and presenting them on a platter, readily conceivable. A fitting written tribute reminds us the unrivaled service rendered by these architects to the profession and the community at large.

The bulk of the book consists of the section aptly named CELEBRATION. Flamboyantly articulated Projects of contemporary architects young and old fill the pages with a short description of each project. Not grouped by any particular style or era, the bright pages are a treat to whoever wants to enjoy a cross section of Sri Lankan architects’ work. Selected by the architects themselves, works ranging from houses, offices, apartments, factories, schools, medium scale projects to mega projects are featured without any pretension, drawn from all over the island and even a few from overseas.

In the light of the book, Modern, Traditional, Hi-Tech and Contemporary are all left for the reader to judge. As such, the IDENTITY: THE SRI LANKA ARCHITECT is a discreet answer to the open ended question “the identity of the Sri Lankan architect”, consequently Sri Lankan Architecture. The publication is also definitely an ode to fifty years of architecture in Sri Lanka.