Architecture for Humanity

Anjalendran, 'architect of Sri Lanka', at the Asia Society, New York, Dec. 2, 2009.

NEW YORK, December 2, 2009 - In a country such as strife-ridden Sri Lanka, good architecture has the power to heal wounds and inspire, says Anjalendran, one of Sri Lanka's most renowned architects.

At an Asia Society discussion with University of Brighton professor David Robson, who recently published a comprehensive survey of the architect's work, Anjalendran also pointed out architecture's ability to "create magical experiences."

Born into a family of Jaffna Tamils and a student of the prolific and influential Geoffrey Bawa, Anjalendran's buildings are known across the Indian subcontinent for their simple directness, modern spirit, and acknowledgment of the rich vernacular traditions of Sri Lanka. The latter quality, though, is particularly important to Anjalendran. "I consider myself first a Sri Lankan, and second a Tamil," he said.

Whether working with a small budget, as with his SOS Children's Villages, or on more lavish projects, such as client Miles Young's Mount Cinnamon estate, Anjalendran is known to devote the same amount of focus and commitment to the quality and creativity of the buildings, as well as the same "immaculate detailing" reminiscent of his guru and mentor Geoffrey Bawa. "Cheap, [good] architecture is not difficult to achieve," said Anjalendran. "You just need to spend a little more time and effort."

Nature also plays an important role in Anjalendran's work, perhaps even more than the buildings themselves. "Architecture is always a background from which you view nature or a landscape," he said, citing one of the lessons he learned from Bawa, who also stressed removing all kinds of pretension from architecture. "It's not the basis of how Western architecture is taught, but it's very much a part of my tradition."

Reported by Stephanie Valera, Asia Society Online