Witnessing Sri Lankan Architecture

Things To Do -> Heritage & Culture -> Visiting Cultural Triangle

Sri Lankan architecture is a blend of a variety of forms and styles. Buddhism has had a significant influence since its introduction to the island in the 3rd century BCE. It has been influenced by foreign countries –India, East Asian countries, and South-east Asian countries. They have played a significant role in shaping Sri Lankan architecture and vice versa. Europe also has played a vital role in influencing Sri Lankan architecture through its colonialism.

Sri Lankan architecture can be broadly categorized into 3 areas–ancient architecture, colonial period architecture, and post-independence architecture.

Ancient Architecture:

The ancient architecture of Sri Lankan architecture is made of cave temples, and Dagobas or Stupas. The earliest evidence of cave temples is found in the temple complexes of Mihintale. 

A drip ledge carved along the top edge of the rock ceiling which stopped rainwater from running into the cave is a unique feature in these caves.  

Cave complexes of Dambulla and Situlpahuwa contained 80 caves each, The Kaludiya Pokuna, Mihintale cave temple is made of brick walls with granite window openings, and ceilings. The Gal Vihara, Polonnaruwa, and the cave temples of Dambulla were some other examples.


Colonial Period Architecture:

The Western colonists in Sri Lanka have left their mark on Sri Lankan architecture in various forms. While very few buildings of the Portuguese era survive, many buildings from the Dutch era could be still seen in the coastal area of the island. The old town of Galle and its fort built by the Dutch in the year 1663 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many buildings of historical value are also found in Sri Lanka. Colombo Fort area and other parts of Colombo contain many British period buildings.

One can see European architectural styles such as Palladian, Renaissance Classics, or Neo-classical styles in the buildings built by the colonial governments.


Post-Independence Architecture:

Geoffrey Manning Bawa was a Sri Lankan architect who was among the most influential Asian architects of his generation. He is the force behind what is today known globally as “tropical modernism”. He revolutionized Sri Lankan architecture by creating a style that brought together elements from different times and places to create something new, original, and with a local aesthetic. Today, tropical modernist architecture is a common sight in Brazil, Puerto 

 Rico, Hawaii, and Ghana. ‘’The Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre’’ in Colombo, Altair Residential TowersKrrish Square, and ITC Colombo One have postmodern architectural designs.

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