28th May 2000
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Architect Nimal Chandrasiri Gunasekera 

Hard core memories 

Down Memory Lane

By Roshan Peiris 
It was a strenuous exer-cise, going down memory lane with Chandrasiri Gunasekera, a reputed architect. His memories are hard core and academic. There is barely any levity about them. 

" As a child I was impossible, always asking questions on every conceivable topic. I never took anything for granted," says Chandrasiri who turned out to be an exemplary student, topping his class. 

Being the eldest in a family of one brother and two sisters, Chandrasiri says: "I was very dominating, keeping my siblings in their place."

At school he had the privilege of studying under writer Sagara Palansuriya. "He was my classteacher and also my Sinhala teacher, which looking back now accounts for my high standard in Sinhala."

Chandrasiri confesses that he was not good in English, but made up for it by being very good in arithmetic, geometry, algebra and geography.

"I was quiet in class. I was also very loyal to my teachers and never played the fool. I frowned on those who did."

Today, being the Chairman of the South Asian Association for the Regional Co-operation of Architects, he confesses, "I still respect my teachers. I visit them and give them any help. My father being a teacher, respect and chivalry towards teachers were part and parcel of my upbringing". 

His first school he recalls was Prince of Wales, Moratuwa and then Dharmapala Vidyalaya from where he sat his university entrance. He wanted to study medicine, but failed to get into Medical College. "Therefore, I chose architecture and have no regrets." His father was his chief source of inspiration. He studied architecture at university here for three years and at the University of Melbourne after that. "I topped the batch and got honours in all my subjects," he says with pride.

"I am proud that years later I was invited by the Vice -Chancellor of the University of Melbourne to attend an international seminar with the Alumni Association. I was the only Sri Lankan invited, an indelible memory." 

He was invited for the first day of the inaugural banquet in Melbourne to give the vote of thanks. He was also invited to give a millennium message to the city of Melbourne. 

Chandrasiri recalls, "My impressions of Australia, the memories I carry with me are the lack of stress, the free movement, freedom to talk, honesty and the fact that a deserving person, irrespective of race gets promoted. I worked for a short period in Melbourne and was soon promoted as senior architect. My race and colour were no disabilities."

In a lighter vein, he said, "I was so busy studying, that I rarely had time even to watch T.V ! " So he did not have any girlfriends. 

He married a friend's sister, having fallen in love with her before going to the University of Melbourne. They are happily married with three children. Today he is in private practice and is the President of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, having been Secretary earlier. 

"Architects are great visionaries and creators. That is why they are called the 'guardian deities' of the built environment," he adds.

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