The Atapattu walwwa is a protected monument which is two hundred years old. The house is orientated in the south east direction based on astrology. It is located on a saddle between two parallel ridges which run in a more or less north-south direction from the hinterland to the bay and habour of the ancient port of Galle. Both ridges end abruptly just short of the foreshore, which is a shelf-like seafront following the line of the bay in a wide curve, creating a wind corridor.. The building blends with its environment which is attractive. The trees around it form part of the house. The house has been designed. with particular regard to local tropical climatic conditions.
During its 200 year old history its structure has stood well. The builders of this magnificent house has designed the house in such a manner that the environment has been maximally utilized to give its occupiers comfort in addition to shelter. The technology used has been well adapted to the climate. It has been aesthetically built and the needs of its occupiers have been amply catered for. Finally this house is a tribute to the Sinhalese builders and there technology. We in the 21st century has a lot to learn from our past.
ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN
AtapattuWalawwa its authenticity and much of its settings have been preserved. It is still owned and occupied by 10th generation of its 18th century builder. Most of the changes over the years have been substantially restored to its original state. Set in an antique urban landscape ,with a well documented history, and with a outstanding architectural quality this urban villa stands just half a mile from the historic Galle fort, a two minute walk from the main street.
The house and the garden observes the Buddhist concept of Dependent -Origination. It faces southeast based on centuries of experience and embedded in astrological formulae, to maximally utilize the south east winds from the Indian Ocean for ventilation, The sun moves from east to west across the house so that the occupants are spared from the glare. It has been designed with particular regards to local tropical conditions. Over centuries the builders seem to have understood bio climatic design which enabled them to creatively apply that knowledge to new and varied architectural contexts. Most of the materials used are reusable. The house depicts a history, a structure, functions, most importantly maintenance of internal environment geared to the comfort of its occupants. It is a unique house from which we in the 21st century can learn from our past-a lesson for the future.
This house is a rare example of Sinhala Technology. Most of the others have been destroyed in the name of renovation. The Sinhala building technology has been replaced in most instances with cement (European) in the name of modernity. It gives us a idea how the Sinhala builders addressed the problems, sustainability at the same time address the comfort of its occupants. To achieve the above the builders had to address the following.
• Temperature control
• Dealing with Ground water
• Dealing with the Sun and Rain Water
• Address the problems of termites
A more comprehensive account is available in the book Atapattu Walawwa-Lessons Learnt from conservation.Book available in bare-foot Colombo.