- Architectural Firm: Modulus2 Architects
- Architect: Nishan Rasanga Wijetunge
- Location: Nugegoda, Sri Lanka
- Area: 4,000 ft2
- Land Extent: 20 perch
- Project Year: 2018
- Photographer: Dilanka Bandara
- Author: Ranmini Herath
Text description provided by the architect.
It is often considered that the art of giving an existing house an architectural facelift while meeting the client’s difficult list of requirements is a challenge that entails much sensitivity and thought. The house at No. 73 at Railway Avenue, Nugegoda recently tackled by Archt. Dr. Nishan Wijetunge is such a project.
The conceptual approach was to create a labyrinth of spaces with pauses and directional changes, facilitating spatial progression from the entrance point to the climax of the rear garden. Then, it would be unleashed vertically; from the ground, all the way to the roof terrace level. A modern, rectangular, two-storied section was added to the front of the existing single-storied house from the 1980s, which connects to the old spacious living room on the ground level. The initially crammed pantry was opened up on two sides reconfigured as a dining room, connected to the bar/sports room adjacent to it; both overlooking the rear veranda.
On the first floor, the master bedroom (for the client and his wife) and another bedroom (i.e the shared room of the two daughters) were pushed to either side of the rectangular addition, with the study and TV lobby perching in the middle. The roof terrace subsumed with green was conceived as the perfect vantage point to gaze at the busy Nugegoda junction in the distance.
Retention of most of the roof, walls and foundation of the old house helped keep construction costs low, and the intervention to a minimum. While old fenestration was replaced with modern aluminum counterparts, some of the recycled antique doors and windows were re-located to the rear verandah, and service areas. Brick from the demolished areas were also reused for retaining walls and parts of boundary wall, while antique columns and corbel stones were astutely utilized to invoke a sense of nostalgia.
A trademark of the architect is seen in the juxta positioning of salvaged elements among the new pieces, within a white interior matrix. Retention of the old furniture with the up-cycled competing with modern additions on one hand, gave way to the client’s sentimental and timeless connection to his abode, while on the other, enhanced its level of comfort for the family.
The once introverted dwelling was opened up through the rear verandah towards a reflecting pool, encircling a 50-year old preserved Uguressa tree. This was the architect’s ultimate reverence to the past, amidst many contemporary interventions. This courtyard that brings ample light and ventilation becomes a tranquil outdoor space within the property’s rear enclosure. While the rear pond facilitates evaporative cooling, linear positioning of openings for cross-ventilation as well as strategically-placed louvered panels induce the easy escaping of hot-air. The new house is very comfortable, in comparison to the hot old house, the client affirms.
Inclusion of sustainable technologies such as solar net-metering, solar hot water and WPC panels mounted on the west facade adds value to the project. The roof terrace was capped with a west-facing lean-to roof to evoke a ‘shadow-umbrella’ effect, which cut out direct solar gain.
The existing ground levels of the terrain were utilized to incorporate different interior heights, while all the outdoor terraces and gardens was a positive side effect of the idea. All trees on site – including the tall Lunumidella trees in front – were retained, and numerous new ones too were planted. The greenery fused front boundary wall acts as a much-needed visual and sound buffer from the busy abutting street.
Sensitively designed with meaningfully crafted spaces, this house is undoubtedly a forerunner in modern architecture, yet harks back romantically by paying homage to its rich past – resulting in the creation of a timeless mosaic.
Unique features or interesting aspects of the project
- Residential area in a Colombo suburb near a busy city
- Large plot (20 perch)
- Introvert (focusing on a rear courtyard
- 3 levels (G + 2) – vertical emphasis
- Open plan living – dining
- 5 bed (master bed + children’s’ + guest x 2 Nos. ), 4 bath, 2 car porch
- Mini Cinema
- Indoor bar & Sports room
- Rear outdoor gazebo
- Top floor covered veranda
- Interpenetration between spaces
- Roof terraces with views of Nugegoda City
- Stylistically modern and regionalist (Neo-regionalist)
- Rustic and modern material pallet
- Juxtaposition of old (antique and salvaged) and new building elements and furniture/accessories/decorative
- Low-energy – PV cells, solar hot water, natural LP gas generation
- Low-Carbon – reuse of recycled and thrown away materials, upcycled furniture