Sunela Jayawardena

Imagine a world without buildings. What would have shaped our habitats? The answer lies in the Darwinian theory that explains how humans utilized the natural habitats to gain knowledge and refuge. Modern day society is, therefore, a result of humankinds’ curiosity towards the environment and finding ways to gratify it. As Winston Churchill stated, “We shape our buildings, and afterward our buildings shape us” a principle followed by environmental architect Sunela Jayewardene. Sunela approaches architecture as an applied form of art of which her overarching creative influence is environmental innovation. In conversation with the applied artist, we engage in an insightful discussion on Sunela’s environmental innovation that contribute to her characteristic style of architecture, revolving around ecology of sites and sustainability of human habitats.

“My great passion is the environment, so in whatever I do, eco consciousness is the motivating factor and thus is also my primary creative influence in approaching architecture. Similar to an artist’s creation of producing a riveting work of art regardless of the discipline, architecture has to complement its context”. Recognized as Sri Lanka’s leading environmental architect by the Time Magazine (2007), Sunela is not only conscious of sustainability and ecology of sites but perceives the environment as a key discipline that frames her practice. “I try to be very principled in the work I do”.

In defining the term environmental architect, Sunela states the priority lies in the natural environment, from the restoration of a damaged environment, preserving a pristine environment, to enhancing the urban environment. Her projects are a reflection of her artistic practice and Jetwing Vil Uyana, was recognized as National Geographic Top 25 Eco Lodges of the world (2018). Jetwing Vil Uyana is a fine example of the restoration of a damaged landscape with laborious planning and meticulous design. A heavily distressed twenty-five acres of land was transformed into a successful wildlife sanctuary through “pure restoration by design” she states.

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10th February, 2019 Visual Art | Architecture