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The re-design of Slave Island railway

Part 1 Project 1998
Milinda Pathiraja
University of Moratuwa | Sri Lanka

The conception was derived from Bengali film "Patar-Panchali" by Satyajit-Ray where a train has dramatically used to symbolise the intervention of modernism to the traditional Indian-context.

The existing context consists of several layers; The Indigenous-layer, Colonial-layer, and the contemporary-layer, evolved as a result of the infusion of previous two layers. There is a potential for a new-modern layer to emerge from this historical context as it is in middle of two major growth-centers of Colombo. The 'Old-Station' and its surrounding can be perceived as a time-machine reflecting the infusion of traditional and contemporary developments.

This project aims to use "The-Train" to connect and absorb all these meanings (textual, contextual, historical and cultural) - grown layers upon layers - together with a layer of modernism and future where people can see, experience and feel. The building is conceived as a 'stage' linking modern developments while preserving existing layers.

The arrival and departure from Galle to Colombo and vice-versa is articulated concerning the serial-vision of the travel experience, highlighting this celebrated dialogue between tradition and modernism. This makes the railway-station part of a continuum of urban-rhythms and flows. The new modern-layer is represented by a transparent entrance-foyer placed between the old railway-building and by the new underground rail-system. Other functions are gathered along a new "street" connecting public squares regenerated from the existing context.

The train comes along the coastal line, up to Kolpetty providing views of the sea, the suburban towns and distant city and as it turns towards the city enclosure, it goes underground. The commuters get-down at the underground terminal and move upwards expecting a modern railway-station, but only to crop-out from the old-station, with a surprise and an appraisal for the colonial layer. This provides a thoroughly deserving effusion for the serial-vision.

The transparent entrance-foyer is an ultimate celebration of the excitement of travel, the thrill of arrival and the technology of our time. It is orientated towards the distant developments furnishing a grand-view, framed by the Bo-trees and old buildings, a composition that glorifies the infusion of history and modernism.

Milinda Pathiraja

The design for the Slave island Railway Station by Milinda Pathiraja comprised his submission for the Comprehensive Design Project (CDP)for BSc Built Environment (i.e,Part 1)

This project was set within one of two design themes which defined the parameters of the CDP program in 1997 , i.e. "Architecture as Public Space". The intention in identifying such a theme was to give a sense of direction and priority to the designs. The emphasis on the public realm held the message that a railway station is much more than a transport convenience.

There were other constraints on the design; notably contextual requirements. Set within a distinctive but deteriorating urban fabric the new railway station was called upon to infuse new life and vitality into the context, and at the same time preserve and celebrate the 100 year old existing railway station.

Milinda's approach to the task was extremely broad. His celebration of the public realm was on a much larger scale than the immediate neighbourhood. In fact he extended it into the experience of train travel itself; the visual and sensual adventure of arriving by train in the city centre became his focal concept. His approach to context was through a time-based understanding of urban fabric which formed a conceptual framework for a strongly contemporary statement within a historic fabric. In the final analysis Milinda's response broadened the given assignment into an extremely wide and complex task.

Milinda's method of work was quintessentially architectural: concepts would always be born with a strong statement of space and form. His final product exhibits a clear message captured in a definitive spatial experience, and characterised by a distinctive architectural language.

It is my belief that this project exhibits exceptional depth of thinking and rare skill in the making of architectural form and space.

• Page Hits: 7663         • Entry Date: 08 January 1998         • Last Update: 10 May 2001