Kandy, Sri Lanka.
Images © Ajantha Ranaweera & Nath Rankothge
Nisala Villa is a fusion of vernacular and contemporary, Sri Lankan and Western sensibilities. Located along the village high road in the countryside of Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage city, the villa aims to respond to the rich architectural and cultural heritage, tropical mountain landscape and climate.
Intended as a holiday home for a family living in Australia with roots in Sri Lanka, it is inspired by a fusion of cultures and lifestyles. The design also subtly references through material and formal abstraction the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage site located nearby.
Moving up the hillside and through the villa, a sequence of spaces and terraces unfold. There is a strong transition from the communal front living, dining and entertainment terrace under one generous cantilevering roof to intimate private spaces and gardens on higher levels, all connected by the central hallway. Dramatic spatial variations, ambient lighting effects and inside-outside conditions are created by the combination of the stepping terraces, gardens, and roofs. Every space has a visual and tactile connection with a garden.
The project aimed for socially, economically and environmentally sustainable approaches through design, construction and operations. Passive design features were critical to reducing the carbon and energy footprint. The effectiveness of natural ventilation, capturing breeze paths, cooling perimeter gardens, high ceilings, ground level living and thermal mass have meant that air conditioning is avoided. Furniture is manufactured and sourced in Sri Lanka, consisting of a combination of hand-crafted local antiques and contemporary pieces designed by the architect. Engaging local labour, materials and fabricators were integral to the design and construction process despite the challenges of limited selections and low-skilled labour. This approach avoided costly imported materials and labour which has given a strong contemporary Sri Lankan aesthetic feel.