An Architect's Home and Studio Rises Above Rajagiriya

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By Heather Corcoran / Published by Dwell
Twenty minutes from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, architect Palinda Kannangara builds himself a rugged home and studio.

In steamy Sri Lanka, architect Palinda Kannangara's home doesn't just combine his business and his residence—it also combines the best of urban life and nature. From atop the roof deck, guests can take in high-rise skyline from one side and views of nearby marshes and jungle from the other.

An Architect's Home and Studio Rises Above Rajagiriya - Photo 1 of 6 - The three-story structure serves as both a home and architectural studio, with parking for four cars on the ground-level carport—all on a 2,700-square-foot plot of land.

The three-story structure serves as both a home and architectural studio, with parking for four cars on the ground-level carport—all on a 2,700-square-foot plot of land.

It's not just the views of the house that are attuned to nature. This brutal beauty in brick and concrete is actually surprisingly sustainable, thanks to a number of clever moves by Kannangara.

An Architect's Home and Studio Rises Above Rajagiriya - Photo 2 of 6 - Expanses of low-e glass open to views of the nearby greenery. Designed by the architect, these 15-foot-tall panes virtually disappear when moved to the side.

Expanses of low-e glass open to views of the nearby greenery. Designed by the architect, these 15-foot-tall panes virtually disappear when moved to the side.

The primary concern in a climate like this is cooling, an issue Kannangara dealt with by taking advantage of his materials. The concrete walls are double layered with an air gap in between, while a pattern of perforations in the brick walls facilitate circulation. Elsewhere, expanses of 15-foot-high low-e glass opened out onto the nearby marsh. 

An Architect's Home and Studio Rises Above Rajagiriya - Photo 3 of 6 - The primary living area opens to the main volume below it. The perforated brick walls aid with heat management.

The primary living area opens to the main volume below it. The perforated brick walls aid with heat management.

Perhaps the most interesting ecological interventions take place on the roof, which features, along with a concrete-enclosed living area, a number of green ideas. There's a garden that grows edible herbs, plus paddy field and a biological pond that regulates storm water.

An Architect's Home and Studio Rises Above Rajagiriya - Photo 4 of 6 - A roof deck offers views of both the city and the surrounding marsh. The roof's biological ponds regulate stormwater, while its edible herb gardens and paddy fields help to keep the interior of the home cool despite the tropical heat. 

A roof deck offers views of both the city and the surrounding marsh. The roof's biological ponds regulate stormwater, while its edible herb gardens and paddy fields help to keep the interior of the home cool despite the tropical heat. 

Inside the house, carefully placed courtyards make the most of the roof's cooling effects, resulting in lower temperatures inside the structure. Another sustainable measure that can be felt throughout the house is the extensive reuse of recycled materials, including road pavers, waste wood (to create new doors), and jackwood (for the flooring).

An Architect's Home and Studio Rises Above Rajagiriya - Photo 5 of 6 - Brick and board-formed concrete are the primary materials of the rugged, yet elegant, structure.

Brick and board-formed concrete are the primary materials of the rugged, yet elegant, structure.

While the eco-friendly elements—and cooler indoor temperature—are certainly nice, it's easy to imagine that for guests the flow of volumes makes the maximum impact. The main living area, located two stories off the ground, hovers within the home's main volume, open at one end to views of the jungle—and the dramatic double-heigh office—beyond.


Cover photo by Sebastian Posingis.

An Architect's Home and Studio Rises Above Rajagiriya - Photo 6 of 6 - Among the most dramatic spaces is a double-height office off of the main studio space with sculptural installation that showcases its soaring ceiling.

Among the most dramatic spaces is a double-height office off of the main studio space with sculptural installation that showcases its soaring ceiling.