Into the Woods: Sri Lankan Residential Designs Are On the Rise

From cantilevered platforms to timber frameworks, a distinctly modern treehouse aesthetic unites these Sri Lankan residential designs.

Nidhi Upadhyaya Nidhi Upadhyaya

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When one thinks of a Sri Lankan getaway, the image of dense greenery might not immediately jump to mind. The beauty of the country’s beaches is world-renowned, but a more underrated aspect of the country’s natural offerings is the verdant forests that blanket the island. Architects are taking inspiration from the awesome atmosphere of Sri Lanka’s lush vegetation, as is visible in the ever-increasing number of modern cabins scattered throughout the hilly forests. These residential projects make clear that a distinct architectural language is emerging in the region. 

The following built and unbuilt Sri Lankan homes are complex in their simplicity. Sloped roofs, rectangular blocks, timber framework and spacious verandahs are just some elements that lie at the core of this collection; their minimalist designs celebrate the island’s lush greenery. Elements such as cantilevered platforms, simple geometries and natural materials unify these cabins with their wooded surroundings. Collectively, these homes are creating a distinctly modern treehouse aesthetic for residential design in Sri Lanka.  

Rubber Plantation Holiday Home by a-designstudio, Padukka, Sri LankaRubber Plantation Holiday Home by a-designstudio, Padukka, Sri LankaRubber Plantation Holiday Home by a-designstudio, Padukka, Sri Lanka

The house is nestled within a rubber plantation that acts as a natural canopy for the structure. The home, which is raised above the ground, wraps around a pool in the center and contains four bedrooms that have a clear view of the pool and the thick woods beyond it. The use of glass panels and natural finishes on the exterior make the space feel open and one with nature.

Holiday Villa - Kirindivita by ICONCAST Chartered Architects, Gampaha, Sri LankaHoliday Villa - Kirindivita by ICONCAST Chartered Architects, Gampaha, Sri LankaHoliday Villa – Kirindivita by ICONCAST Chartered Architects, Gampaha, Sri Lanka

The majority of this villa’s footprint cantilevers over the water, immersing occupants in the wetlands on three sides. The upper level uses slender wooden slats as external walls that create a sense of privacy in the bedroom while still allowing light permeate inside. The lower level is wrapped in glass panels provide residents with a scenic view from the living room to the spectacular landscape beyond.

Estate Bungalow at Mathugama by Narein Perera, Kalutara, Sri LankaEstate Bungalow at Mathugama by Narein Perera, Kalutara, Sri LankaEstate Bungalow at Mathugama by Narein Perera, Kalutara, Sri Lanka

The three-level bungalow is built as a stack of blocks that maximizes the limited ground footprint. Each level is connected by external staircases to facilitate maximum privacy in all rooms. The façades on the eastern side are left open for users to experience the view of the surroundings whereas the rest are covered in timber.

Forest Eco-Cottage by a-designstudio, Kandy, Sri Lanka

This cozy cottage almost looks like an extension of the trees around it. One enters the two-level home through a bridge; it is raised from the ground using stilts that reduce the damage to the vegetation below. The use of timber floors, rock walls and a hay-thatched roof camouflage it within the forest. The inside space is lit using lanterns made of pale cloth to further minimize its disturbance to the flora and fauna around.

Coconut House by a-designstudio, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Sri Lanka

This home comprises two large bedrooms plus living and dining spaces and an outdoor deck. A small pool is tucked between the two sleeping areas to create a distinct sense of separation. The entire house is finished with natural textures and tones to help it blend with the coconut groves in its backdrop.

Images by Eresh Weerasuriya

Kurundu House by Zowa architects, Digana, Sri Lanka

The house is built on an open plot that is surrounded by lush vegetation on two sides and overlooks a Victoria reservoir on the other. While it appears as a single block of mass from the street, the home has an additional level below when seen from the other side. The road-facing façades are covered in cinnamon sticks and the rest feature painted bricks. The base level, which houses the living and dining areas, opens out into a verandah that further leads to an infinity pool.

Green Living - Kaduwela, Sri Lanka by ICONCAST Chartered Architects, KaduwelaGreen Living – Kaduwela by ICONCAST Chartered Architects, Kaduwela, Sri Lanka

The most dominant feature of this house is the double-height living area which is encased in a steel, glass and timber framework, which maximizes natural light and ventilation. Each space is finished with materials like concrete, exposed brick or timber to strengthen its connection with the landscape beyond it.

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