Focus on Colombo’s Living Heritage | Sunday Observer

Focus on Colombo’s Living Heritage

27 November, 2016

The Living Heritage Seminar, a collaboration between Sri Lankan and European architects, the European Union, the French Embassy, the Netherlands Embassy, the British Council and Alliance Francaise, was held at the Galle Face Hotel on November 2. .

Paul Godfrey, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation speaking at the event, said, “We can see there is a modernization process happening in Colombo in the 21st century, which includes language, literature, the arts and architecture. Heritage is about the memory of childhood, it is the memory of who we are. It’s the understanding of space. It’s vital to understand Colombo as a city, and Sri Lanka as a country.”

All the areas around Colombo have evolved from what it was in the past, due to the relocation of certain populations and economic exploitation.

There is a lack of context and a lack of sight specificity in the urban planning of Colombo. Paul Godfrey further said, Sri Lanka should celebrate the value of what it has, selecting very clearly the colonial period architecture, the post-colonial period architecture and the vernacular architecture, which is the most neglected of all. He said, he would like to make a plea to those in the Government and decision making positions, that there needs to be regulation, taking heritage into consideration, when approving a project. It is not to put a block on modernization, but to preserve heritage.

Paul Godfrey explained, it is important to raise awareness about the value of contemporary Sri Lankan architecture, and how there is an opportunity in the development of Colombo to cultivate appreciation for architecture, and build exciting buildings. He said, it was remarkable that when President J.R. Jayewardene decided to build a new Parliament, he chose Geoffrey Bawa as the architect, and it stands as an important building in Sri Lanka’s post-independence history.

Jean-Marin Schuh, the French Ambassador to Sri Lanka, speaking at the conference said, “this is the third conference organized this year, and we gathered forces with our European colleagues with similar interests, such as, the preservation of heritage in today’s and tomorrow’s city.

We are happy to have partnered with the Delegation of the EU, the Embassy of the Netherlands, Alliance Francaise and the British Council. Heritage is important for children and it is the key to the future of Sri Lanka.” Ambassador Jean-Marin Schuh, introduced Prof Carlos Moreno, a renowned international expert in the field of smart cities. He studied Robotics and Artificial Intelligence before turning his attention to the intelligent control of complex systems in the digital city.

The French Ambassador further said, Prof Moreno has explored a variety of disciplines and worked in a variety of fields, such as, teaching, research, business and industry. Ambassador Jean-Marin Schuh also said, “Developing a concept of the human smart city is to remind us that a smart city should not be seen from an ethnocentric point of view but from a human angle. We must respond to the challenges of urban development. The city of tomorrow must respect its history and embrace its identity.” Prof Carlos Moreno, speaking at the seminar said, the primary goal of urban development is to improve people’s lives. Climate change plays an important role in modern urban development.

The new urban agenda advocates the preservation of cultural heritage in building new cities, which are inclusive and self-resilient. It takes into consideration the quality of life and the social needs of the inhabitants, as well as, education, culture and transport. Prof Moreno explained that digital networks must match urban development because the digital revolution has radically changed our lives. He said, “Our cities are becoming global cities based on economic concerns, and local governments embody a new political force.

What is at stake is the hybridization of the social life of citizens, and, new technology must improve the quality of life. Digital technology must only be a tool, and not an end in itself, and should ensure the social link. It must enable us to see life through our eyes, not only through screens and smartphones.”

Pictures by Thushara Fernando