Bringing the outdoors in
Continuing our series on the nominations for the Geoffrey Bawa Trust Award for Excellence in Architecture
By Tahnee Hopman

The young Philip Weeraratne never for a moment imagined that his success would come from architecture. Growing up among people who never failed to encourage his creativity, his introduction to architecture came not from creativity or a love of the subject. “Rather, it was a direction from God,” he recalled. “I wanted to be a wildlife researcher, and I had not even thought of architecture as a career. And then, my parents told me that they had been praying about my future, and that they had got direction from God, that I should be an architect.”

Having completed his education at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia, Philip Weeraratne began his study of architecture at the SLIA ( Sri Lanka Institute of Architects) and went on to establish his own firm- PWA Associates.

“It was shortly after I began studying architecture that I realized that it was the ideal career for me; after that, everything just fell into place.” Thirteen years down the line, the experience of architecture had been both exciting and frustrating. “Frustrating because it is sometimes hard to transfer a dream into the final outcome of a project. Still I know that God has been with us all the way, and he is our biggest inspiration.”

Philip Weeraratne’s latest success is that of the Saffron Beach Villa in Habaraduwa, a project which he worked on in collaboration with his colleague and former pupil Ravindu Karunanayake. The project was recently nominated for the Geoffrey Bawa Trust Award for Excellence in Architecture.

“Working with Philip was a valuable experience for me; I was able learn a lot from him throughout the duration of the project,” said Ravindu. “We were absolutely thrilled, as well as honoured to hear the news,” said Philip. “Yet we, as a firm don’t want to lose sight of our goal to keep exploring and improving our work.”

For PWA, the nomination by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust is significant as it is something of an affirmation of a commitment to exploring new fields in architecture-something that Bawa always did. “The works of Geoffrey Bawa depict the amazing journey he made through architecture- one that never ceases to inspire us,” reflected Philip.

The four-bedroom resort was initially designed for an Australian couple who had been in media. They planned on having the house to spend their retirement, but consequently decided to run it as a boutique villa. Moving glass panels give one the impression of being outdoors- “This is an effect we wanted to create,” explains Philip- “one of bringing the outdoors in.”

Philip Weeraratne Ravindu

Work on Saffron Beach had been a pleasurable experience for the two architects, given the level of cooperation from their clients. “In fact it has to be said that the most successful of our projects have always been two way processes. The Saffron Beach Villa was one such project, because the clients themselves gave their input, and they understood who a professional was and what to expect from him. In many trades we see that there is a lack of professionalism on both sides, which can have an adverse effect on the final product of whatever trade,” explained Philip.

PWA recently had the honour of working with Japanese architect Tadao Ando on a corporate retreat cum private residence in Japan.Considering the high standards of precision and attention to detail which they had to adhere to during the project, it has overall been one of the firm’s most challenging projects .
“Still, we are always up for a challenge,” says Philip enthusiastically. “For us, architecture is all about having fun, being true to ourselves, and at the same time, reaching new heights.”

Through the years, there are many who have both moulded and inspired this committed architect. Surath Wickramasinghe, C. Anjalendran, Geoffrey Bawa, Anura Ratnavibushana and Shanth Fernando among them. “But,” he says, “God remains, my biggest source of inspiration.”

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