Lloyd’s Building shows baroque elegance of colonial structure | Sunday Observer

Lloyd’s Building shows baroque elegance of colonial structure

The Lloyd’s building was constructed in 1908 during the British colonial period. It was designed by Architect E. Skinner and constructed by Clifford Lake and Company.

A noteworthy characteristic of Lloyd’s building situated on Sir Baron Jayathilake Mawatha Colombo Fort, is that it holds features of the Renaissance architectural style and structures of the Baroque architectural elegance.

Asiri Dissanayake, a Chartered Architect agrees. Elaborating on the style he says, “When the British were constructing buildings in Ceylon during the colonial period they mostly constructed industrial buildings and incorporated the styles in Britain. The exterior of the building is very well decorated with columns and balustrades.”

Dissanayake explains, “On the ground floor there is a cloistered arcade and there is space inside. The top of the arches are decorated and there is a frieze at the first floor level. That is an interesting element because usually what happens is that the freeze is present in the parapet at the top most part where the roof is. But here, there is a prominent frieze at the first floor level as well. And the arches are continued for two more floors. There are pilasters which are columns that are engraved into the wall. There are two pilasters each standing on one square column. And then you can see a slab extension, extending out of the building. That is also interesting because normally in British period buildings there is a three dimensional quality. The balustrades are in the windows. These intricate decorations have been done in a material similar to lime plaster.”

“The Renaissance style is different from the neo-classical style which did not have too many decorations. The Renaissance style is more artistic and there are intricate designs in all the elements. The pediment which is in the shape of a triangle is also intricately decorated and this is also a feature of the Renaissance style. The pediments are the most decorated, whereas the pilasters are not so decorated. The features of the Baroque style can be found in the detailing in the exterior. But the arches are not too decorated.I cannot find any adaptations to tropical architecture in this building and there are no verandahs even though there is an arcade and the building has been renovated.”

Architect Dissanayake an Associate Member of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, who is also visiting lecturer, Programs of Master of Urban Design, Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Building Economics, University of Moratuwa, explains, “The baroque style is based on movement, spatial invention, drama and freedom of detail. The building exterior poses a curvilinear elegance with the arches and elaborately decorated pediment.

The British period buildings of the subcontinent mostly are factory buildings. The need to erect these buildings quickly encouraged prefabricated systems using cast-iron steel and metal sheets. However, the more urban buildings such as the Lloyd Building in Fort, Colombo, favoured using prevalent European styles, particularly, those of the late Renaissance in Britain, Baroque and some revival styles. The Lloyds Building incorporates styles of British Renaissance and to some extent Baroque styles – the latter especially in the timber decorated interiors of the building.”

What about the building’s surfaces? He says, “As with the case of Lloyds building, most of the urban British period buildings helped determine the character of the townscape. The building exteriors were developed in a manner to place the buildings strongly in context. The adjoining buildings are usually connected with an arcade. This arcade, while serving the purpose of a covered walkway, acts as a forecourt to the building. Also, the building height of the entire street is maintained at maximum ground plus four floors, of which Lloyds building stands tall at ground plus four. By maintaining the building heights and the decorated exteriors, create a unique character throughout the street.

“The symbolic decorations in the exteriors raise interest of visitors seeing the buildings for the first time. It attracts visitors and businessmen alike into the buildings. This can be compared to the extensive use of glass in the exterior in modern day commercial buildings. Similarly, a well decorated exterior invites customers into the building. The decorative pediment and the arch extrudes from the building exterior, giving three dimensional qualities to the slender exterior. This is a clever way of breaking free from the monotonous strait exteriors of the entire street, making the building standout from the rest.” 

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