Solutions for gem miners’ woes through architectural intervention | Sunday Observer

Solutions for gem miners’ woes through architectural intervention

9 August, 2020

An undergraduate of the University of Moratuwa, Chandima  Gawarammana won the Nippon Paint Asia Young Designer contest in the  architectural category. His presentation was a design using the local  gem industry as the theme.  

The focus of his project was to rehabilitate gem mines as a  tribute to the community and culture. The design provides a modern-day  solution to the industry in the form of a facility, revitalizing the  traditional techniques used in gem mines that have been passed down  through generations.  

In a conversation with Youth Observer, he discusses the hopes he has for the gem industry.  

Q: What made you choose the gem industry as a theme?  

A: The main idea behind this particular design thesis was  to reveal the real treasure in the gem industry which the majority in  the country are not aware of. My intention was to reveal particular  segments which are hidden from society and to facilitate them through  architectural intervention.  

In Sri Lanka, the architecture profession is limited in  scope, but in foreign regions, architects and designers are involved in  many sectors, projects which will help to improve various social layers  and issues. I was trying to improve the state of social communities  through architecture while achieving some sort of environmental  rehabilitation which is much needed in areas such as Rathnapura with  natural disasters such as floods.  

The Sri Lankan gem culture is endemic to the gem industry  and there is also an indigenous value related to the industry and its  culture. Most Sri Lankans aren’t aware of these industries and their  values, so I intended to promote this particular sector which has a real  value and history in Sri Lanka.  

The main idea behind this design thesis was to come up with  a method to promote the gem industry in a particular manner while  developing its background and other related cultural aspects. The design  also focuses on adding value to the community and the real owners of  these treasures.  

Q: How did the theme inspire your creativity?  

A: During the five years of my academic period to complete  the architecture degree program – B.Arch (Hons) at the University of  Moratuwa, I was able to improve my creativity even beyond the national  level as well as improve the design mindset along with any selected  theme and the sectors doing further research. To achieve all these, the  continuous guidance and support of my supervisors and lecturers in the  university was a great foundation and I’m thankful to them.  

Q:  How long did it take you to prepare for the competition?  

A: Since this project was done as the final year Design  thesis at the University of Moratuwa, I had to improve some simple  elements for the competition and also do a good presentation to go  beyond the national level.  

In 2016, I won the AYDA Gold medal at the national level  and I was able to participate in the international competition which was  held in Indonesia. With that experience, I was prepared this time.  Within a month, I was able to achieve that standard to present this  project at the AYDA international competition 2019/2020 with confidence.   

Q:  How will the gem miners benefit through your project?  

A: The overall intention was to promote the gem industry  rather than promoting gems itself, so I had to dig deep into the  communal aspects and their lifestyle in a different manner. I visited  the gem mines and the surrounding community as well as to get all the  good and bad experiences in the industry and felt the struggle that they  have gone through to unearth this precious element.  

The knowledge was formed through repeated trial and error,  resulting in developing techniques and methods that caters to their  needs. But these traditional methods have not been developed to fit  modern standards, which has resulted in most of the difficulties people  face in the gem industry. 

The traditional techniques should be revitalised by  providing them with modern facilities for the development of their basic  needs while exposing the hidden story behind the gem industry.  

Throughout my design, I was able to express the qualities  and feelings that they have gained in an architectural manner. The  observer can perceive different qualities in different spaces which I  have created through the proposed project.  

At that point, the observer automatically gains a massive  amount of knowledge regarding the process and the particular industry  itself. Other than facilitating communities to uplift the living  standards of these communities by an architectural intervention. This  system allows them to promote their own cultural and industrial value  while facilitating within their premises (gem mines).  

The project will lead to acting as a supportive tool for  transitional development shortly. The selected area will be transformed  into a gem conservation city by Government proposals which have  commenced. So the proposed promotional centre will act as a pre  advertisement for the future development goals and fulfill the aims and  objectives the Government has proposed.  

Q:  What do you aspire to do, related to design?  

A: Promoting the gem industry in five different sectors  will help the industry and its culture. Their indigenous knowledge was  reflected as modern architectural elements as a masterpiece of what they  have gained over the years. When analyzing the mining process there  were certain observations made. And the risks they face were observed.  

So, the idea was to rehabilitate gem mines as a tribute to  the culture and gem related society. The approach was to build up an  additive architectural component to cater to these societies as well as  solve the initial problems.