Transformation of Colonial City: The Case of Sri Lanka

Thursday May 03

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Thu May 03 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM 208N, North House


Harsha Munasinghe
Professor of Architecture, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

Kanishka Goonewardena
Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Director, Program in Planning, University of Toronto

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Aga Baranowska


Sri Lanka, having gone through 450 years of colonial domination, is an instructive example to study the transformation of colonial city. We use the World Heritage city of Galle as the case here. Galle rose to prominence as a landmark on ancient sea routes between the Middle East and Orient, and was fortified by the Portuguese in the 16th century AD. Their uneasy stay is marked by an unplanned town. The Dutch, replacing them, rebuilt the fort for various types of social ranks accommodated in various types of buildings. The physical form and the spatial structure criteria attest to a well-laid out city exclusively built for Europeans. The British took over the colonial territories in the 19th century and allowed locals to settle down in Galle fort, triggering various layering of the colonial city. Galle, becoming a provincial capital at the dawn of independence assigned a new role to the city, and its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List further diversified its society-space relationship. Today, Galle fort is more a place dedicated to heritage tourism, setting examples for other colonial built city quarters. With about 60% of its built fabric representing the Dutch origin but transformed, Galle fort shows the evolution of both society and urban space, resulted by colonial and neo-colonial developments.

Harsha Munasinghe is a Professor of Architecture, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. He was the Head of the Department of Architecture and the Director of Research and Graduate Studies, and is currently on sabbatical leave. He has published over 30 research articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and has been recognised through awards and citations. He is currently working on two research projects; one on the convergence of culture sector and urban development and the planning of low-carbon neighbourhoods. He can be contacted via email-

Co-sponsored by

Asian Institute