Town Hall: Colombo’s most iconic edifice | Sunday Observer

Town Hall: Colombo’s most iconic edifice

2 July, 2017

The Town Hall is one of the most iconic buildings in Colombo. Located exactly opposite the Vihara Maha Devi Park in Colombo 7, the present Town Hall was built during the British period between 1924 and 1928 to house the offices of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).

The Colombo Mayor’s office is located in the Town Hall building. Among the illustrious former Mayors were V.R. Schokman, George R. de Silva, R.A. de Mel, R.F.S. de Mel and C.T. Grero. Former President J.R. Jayewardene and Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike were Councillors. V.K.A. Anura is the current Commissioner of the CMC.

The Town Hall building was originally designed by architect S.J. Edwards and includes features of the Baroque architectural style. It features a dome and two types of decorative columns -Tuscan and Composite. There is a fissure with intricate carvings and moldings of the Baroque style around the building. The heavy timber doors and windows are also well-known features of British architecture. The main porch faces the Vihara Maha Devi Park, a well-known landmark itself.

Elevators were added later on and now there are also Mezzanine floors. Architect S.U.B. Dolapihilla who is overseeing the restoration work at Town Hall says, “We are trying to restore as much as possible by shifting the congestion outside. All the spaces are of double height. But with the introduction of Mezzanine floors, the height has been reduced.

We are trying to relocate some areas and to restore the original character at least in some places. The main area is in the centre and it is the most important area of the building.

The Council Chamber is below the dome, and behind the Council Chamber are the Mayor’s chambers and other supporting facilities. The roof has changed because now right around the courtyard there is a corridor, and on top of the corridor there is a concrete slab. But according to the old architectural drawings of Edwards it is a tiled roof. It may have changed during the construction period. Almost half of the building consists of the dome. They have highlighted the most important area of the building by having the dome.”

Dolapihilla adds, “It is a monumental building. They have maintained a strong symmetry. When it is a symmetrical building it gets a very strong form. The form gives it a majestic outlook and an outstanding character. Moreover, the main axis of the building continues up to the end of the Vihara Maha Devi Park.”

The Deputy Commissioner of the Colombo Municipal Council Tamara Mallawarachchi says, “The first council meeting was held at the old town hall in Pettah. It was a small building. It was shifted to Colombo 7 during the British era, mainly to acquire more space.

The main Town Hall building was originally built for the CMC. It was in the old town hall first and then the Council was shifted to the present location. We celebrated the 150th anniversary of the CMC in 2015.”

Famous people who have visited the Town Hall include Queen Elizabeth II and many ambassadors. The Town Hall is being maintained methodically and meticulously to preserve the original standards of the building, especially the exterior. But the interior design has changed somewhat. Originally the floors were in cement tiles of black and white design, but now the floors consist of granite and marble tiles. There are buildings with similar architectural styles in Colombo such as the Old General Post Office (Fort), Old Parliament building (now a part of the Presidential Secretariat in Fort) and the National Museum (Colombo 7).