- Principal Architect: Godrige Samuel (MMGS Architects)
- Project Architect: Daminda Prasad
- Location: Colombo 03, Sri Lanka
- Area: 474.5 m2
- Land Extent: 400.4 m2
- Project Year: 2012
- Photographer: Eresh weerasooriya
The ‘Urban Envelope’ is the architect’s own residence in the heart of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital. Previously living in a house with his architectural practice taking up the ground floor, the architect wished to build the new house away from the road front and integrated with nature to relax and enjoy with his family. He selected a land close to the office, but tucked away within the residential fabric.
A house is not only a dwelling, but a home that is a person’s sanctuary. It transcends a mere structure with complex socio – cultural demands. A house can be an expression of status, wealth and personal taste. It must support the pattern of life of its users and express their identity through its form and spaces.
The ‘Urban Envelope’ is so named due to the uni-vocal façade that seamlessly weaves itself into the tight residential fabric of the city and distinctly conceals itself from the dusty and noisy urban street life. With no street frontage, the 10 perch plot is flanked by unsightly rear spaces of adjoining properties and the white walls that form this envelope offers the perfect separation and seclusion to the self – nurtured tranquil oasis within. Resulting from this ‘inward’ concept, the main garden of the house is in fact the back yard. The house being confined to less than two thirds of the whole plot, this garden is relatively extensive.
The impermeable ‘Envelope’ is only softened by the lush foliage of a ‘Dan’ tree (purple berry), its canopy of slender leaves heralding visitors inside through a concealed rustic timber door. At the point of entry, the entrance is still not revealed. Instead, greenery along the forecourt walls guides the eye to the main entrance in a quite journey of discovery. A rustic steel swing peeking through the rubble ramparts finally reveals the entrance, a well-defined void in between the solids. After all the enclosed walls, it’s a welcome surprise to see the cheerful entry that opens the house to the outside.
The living and dining room is opened to the main garden, and in the dense concrete jungle of suburbia, this large open space is a site to behold from the fortress like confine of the house. A feeling of fulfillment is dawned upon the dweller through the contemplative relaxation offered from this play of contrasting volumes in the outside inside connection. The progression of spaces flows from one to the other, celebrating the day to day activities and giving new meaning to simple tasks. The home is slow paced and affords the residents the perfect setting to relax and unwind from the stresses of life outside the white walls of the envelope.
With deep roots in traditional Sri Lankan architecture, rubble was favored for ancient dwellings. This design explores the aesthetics of rubble intermixed with more contemporary materials such as concrete. Experimenting with different forms and textures, the design brings out inherent qualities of each material to achieve a new language for Sri Lankan residential architecture.
The architectural language of the house is rustic, using both rough and smooth textures of solid rubble walls, even white walls, and neat cement float finished floors. The rubble walls run parallel in structural definition, and the spaces are wedged in between the walls and crossed and segregated with simple white walls. The elemental rubble walls provide the architectural form definition for the dwelling. The use of materials in pure forms and less decorations achieves a ‘minimalistic’ aesthetic. The concept of subtraction is used to arrive only at the absolute necessities in structure, space and decoration.