Holcim Foundation


From weapons to books

Boosting our confidence as a young practice

Architect Milinda Pathiraja explains that the greatest benefit of winning the Global Holcim Award was the international exposure it gave Robust Architecture Workshop as a young architectural practice from Sri Lanka. “We were less than three years into the practice when we won the Awards – the regional and the global one – and the library project was only the third building we had completed”, he explains.

Since then, Robus Architecture Workshop has been invited to speak at many architecture forums, their work has been published widely and recognised by other award schemes, and in 2016 they were invited to present their work at the main section of the Venice Architecture Biennale!

Milinda Pathiraja believes that the Holcim Foundation’s initiative to hold the Global Award ceremony in Sri Lanka also contributed significantly to building up Robust Architecture Workshop’s reputation locally. “But more than anything else, winning these awards boosted our confidence as a young practice and convinced us about the appropriateness of the professional and intellectual path we have defined for ourselves,” he says.

The project developed by architect Milinda Pathiraja and his team from Robust Architecture Workshop in the rural town of Ambepussa, near Colombo, was aimed at enabling the reinsertion of former soldiers into civilian life. This subtle way of dealing with the post-civil war period in Sri Lanka led the jury of the Holcim Awards, which had honoured him in 2014 with a Bronze Award for the Asia Pacific region, to reward him once again in 2015 with a Global Award Silver.

He shares his experience in the special edition of international design magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (AA) dedicated to architecture competitions. Read the full interview and jury member comments by Matthias Schuler, Professor of Environmental Technology, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA and Yolanda Kakabadse, former president of WWF-International.

From weapons to books: Interview with Milinda Pathiraja (English flip book)

Des armes aux livres: Entretien with Milinda Pathiraja (French flip book)

De las armas a los libros: Entrevista con Milinda Pathiraja (Spanish flip book)

Schuler_1503.jpgF13_attendee_KakabadseNavarroYolanda_Ecuador.jpgJury comments

“There is significant value in the basic message of the project’s scheme and its translation into a tangible physical structure – the construction of a library and public facility for building the physical and social fabric of a community.” – Matthias Schuler, Professor of Environmental Technology, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA and Member of the Global Holcim Awards jury in 2015.

“This project contributes to strengthening society: it deals with conflict management, healing the wounds of a past war and acknowledging that a traumatic event can be turned into an opportunity to look towards the future.” – Yolanda Kakabadse, former president of WWF-International, Member of the Global Holcim Awards jury in 2012 and 2015, and Member of the Board of the Holcim Foundation from 2004 until 2013.


Last Updated: August 13, 2019
Article Details
Ambepussa, Sri Lanka
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