Milinda Pathiraja and Ganga Ratnayake of Robust Architecture Workshop received the Holcim Awards Bronze for their project Post-War Collective: a community library and social recuperation building in Ambepussa, a rural town near Colombo, Sri Lanka. The project is currently under construction, and was praised by the independent jury for going beyond the physical building to explore processes, engagements, and interactions.
Post-War Collective aims to re-integrate former soldiers into post-civil war Sri Lankan society. Young men from underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds are being trained in building techniques through their involvement in the construction of public structures, such as the community library, which is due for completion in early 2015. The Holcim Awards jury commended the way the project focuses “as much on the building process as on the building as a physical artefact. The combination of two objectives, pertaining to the term ‘building’ both as verb and noun, celebrates a specific understanding of architecture – one derived from the very structure of its making.”
The slip-form, rammed earth wall construction process is an opportunity to transfer technology to locals and former soldiers. The subsequent training tasks were planned at an early design stage, various components of the system and formwork were delineated, the fabrication/training tolerances defined, the production site (training ground), minimum module and sample labor gang (for training) were established, and fabrication steps laid out.
Project author Milinda Pathiraja received the 2011 RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding PhD Theses. His dissertation, The Idea of “Robust Technology” in the Definition of a “Third-World” Practice: Architecture, Design and Labour Training, was completed at the University of Melbourne School of Design. Dr Pathiraja investigated the contribution architects can make to labor policy, and to developing economies through construction projects; and the findings of the research were integrated into Post-War Collective as a way to change current practices to facilitate positive economic growth in the context of sustainable development.