Colombo Art Biennale

Colombo Art Biennale – Conceiving Space, Colombo (Sri Lanka) 2016

University of Hertfordshire

The Architecture programme of the Colombo Art Biennale 2016 (CAB2016) was centred around the slum community of Slave Island district in Colombo, with a strong emphasis on community engagement.

The nine-day programme saw local students join those from across the UK and New Zealand to form a group of 30 students and 10 tutors in working alongside internationally renowned artists and architects and the local community. Each of the architectural projects found ways to engage the community in constructing permanent installations around Slave Island. The students worked throughout the week on a series of projects across multiple scales, from art installations to model-making, paper-crafts and 1:1 installations. An architectural model at 1:50 scale was produced of the proposed Nawala Community Centre, developing ideas for the future of the centre. A series of workshops were carried out for the making of objects from street decorations to costumes, all inspired by the material culture and craft of Sri Lanka. A rooftop canopy was set up were locals and visitors interacted. A complex three-dimensional mural was completed in a street corner in Slave Island.

The group of students were selected from across the three-year curriculum of Interior Architecture as well as Architecture. The participation was generously sponsored by the University of Hertfordshire Diamond Fund Opportunity Award, and the School of Creative Arts’ Global Perspectives in the Curriculum initiative.

Client: Colombo Art Biennale, Community of Slave Island

Tutors: Eva Sopeoglou (University of Hertfordshire, Project Leader), Gihan Karunaratne (University of Hertfordshire, Colombo Art Biennale Architecture Curator), Assemble Studio (Architects, UK), Prof. Will Alsop OBE RA (Architect, UK), Madelon Vrisendorp (Artist), Professor Juhani Pallasmaa (HTU, Finland), Professor Alberto Foyo (Columbia University, USA), Cecil Balmond (Designer, Sri Lanka), Asst. Prof. Dr. Alex Lehnerer (ETH Zurich), Hiranthi Welandawe (Sri Lanka)

Students:  Ana Celpanova (Interior Architecture), Andrea Pattalis (Interior Architecture), Coralena Pattalis (Interior Architecture), Mia Leontic (Interior Architecture), Elise Hodgson (Interior Architecture, Exchange Student), Ablaye Ndour (Architecture) and Ryan Jessop (Architecture)

Participating Universities: Auckland University of Technology (AUT) (New Zealand), Unitec Institute of Technology (New Zealand),  Sheffield Hallam University (UK), University of Hertfordshire (UK)

Research question: The theme for the Biennale was ‘Conceiving Space’ seeking to provide possibilities for creative production, exploration and contestation of the diverse meanings of space. The projects location was chosen to be Slave Island, an informal settlement neighbourhood with a lively community in the heart of Colombo, now locked-in between contemporary commercial development. Chosen because of its complex ethnic history and layered material culture, the architect’s projects sought to create a platform for the discussion of the urban environment on a site-specific level, with the aim to bring positive benefits to the community.

Link: Colombo Art Biennale 



11-50, Architecture, Collaboration, Days, Extra-curricular, Interior Architecture, Sponsorship, Sri Lanka, Students with tutor, Temporary, Undergraduate