Press Release

Envisioning the future of Port City Colombo



The world’s top design firms compete to redefine urban plans for Port City Colombo’s Financial District and the Marina

Colombo, 18th May 2017: The International Urban Design Idea Competition, an effort conceived and initiated by CHEC Port City Colombo (Private) Ltd under the sanction of International Union of Architects (UIA) concluded successfully, with enticing innovative and sustainable urban plans for the proposed Financial District and the Marina, located within Port City, Colombo.

Organised for the first time in Sri Lanka, the competition had the presence of three world class design firms, namely Gensler, Nikken Sekkei and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). The competition regulations are in accordance with the UIA-UNESCO Guidelines for International Design Competitions, a non-governmental organization that employs a global federation of national associations of architects, with the support of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (SLIA).

The panel of top international jurors comprised of Dr. Deborah Dearing, District Commissioner of Greater Sydney Commission with over 30 years of international experience in urban design and strategic land-use planning, Prof. David Dernie is a Chartered Architect, Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Westminster, UK, Mr. Calvin Tsao an acclaimed practitioner with leading voice and a representative of contemporary architecture from New York, Prof. Harris Trevor Gordon Stuart representing UIA is the co-founder of Harris - Kjisik Architects, an influential urban and architectural design practice in Finland and Ar/Plnr Pali Wijeratne representing SLIA is a highly qualified Sri Lankan architect and town planner with over 50 years of experience in conservation.

The shortlisted deliverables underwent a stringent anonymous judging process, encompassing some key areas of considerations as determined by Port City, Colombo, such as open space and green strategy, skyline and height controls, accessibility & connectivity, pedestrian traffic, urban spatial quality, local cultural and heritage context, infrastructure and sustainability with the guidance from UIA.

Key highlights of the Ideas Competition in Colombo were visits by the participants separately to the project site and development during the period between 20th March to 28th March 2017. The international Jury Panel met over a period of 3 days to deliberate and decide on the winning submissions. This took place in a closed door discussion held from 16th to 18th May 2017.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), on winning the competition said, “We are truly delighted that our proposals for Port City Colombo have been so well received. On visiting the Port City Site, we were inspired by the intensity and vibrancy of this unique place which has the potential to have a significant impact on the global stage. Port City Colombo is reminiscent of many megaprojects world-wide and this initiative has the opportunity to lift the spirit of an emerging nation. This endeavor will catalyse inward investment from abroad yet also offer new opportunities for local people to improve their quality of life. We look forward to developing the vision further in the next round of work at both the architectural and city-district scales.”

Highlighting the significance of the winning proposal, Dr. Deborah Dearing who was also the Jury Chairperson asserted “It is fascinating to see the level of details and understanding shown by the participants in developing their respective design concepts. Though there were common similarities between each modules, what really convinced us was the effort by the winning participant to understand the local culture, community trends, and its people and most importantly plans to preserve the local heritage. Understanding of these elements not only reflects the innovativeness and expertise of the firm but also shows the resilience of the plan that will not only help to build a sustainable vibrant city but is flexible enough to embrace local culture and its people. It is also inspiring to see how participants have made efforts to bridge the Port City with Colombo to add in value for both the Port City and to the country. The winning model is a fine example that reflects the importance of the aspects that needs to be considered when a country embraces the 21st century”

The two other participants also received high accolades for their designs which truly represent their level of expertise and professionalism. Reflecting on their experience, Nikken Sekkei said “We are really pleased to be able to contribute to the development of Colombo. We feel that there is a huge potential to develop Colombo and Sri Lanka as a South Asian hub, with culture-climate oriented design, using advanced planning and architectural technology.”

While Gensler felt that the Ideas Competition is unique and explores the future of a World Class City. “We collaborated with Arup, a world renowned engineering firm and !melk an innovative landscape firm to create a world class guest experience. Together we pushed the envelope of Research and Innovation on the project.” says Gensler.

Commenting on the initiative, Lim Kian Siew, Director of Planning and Development of CHEC Port City Colombo said, “It was exciting to witness some of the world’s best talents at work and the innovative concepts presented by the participants. There was deep thinking and understanding of the project concept and the proposals displayed their ingenuity and expertise. We initiated this competition to encourage and empower architects around the world to develop innovative and sustainable future ready urban plans for the Financial District and the Marina of Port City Colombo. This is part of our ambition to bring in the world’s best talent to design and Build a World Class City for South Asia.”

“The competition was a success and we will be looking into how the generated Ideas from the competition can be appropriately introduced and incorporated into the Port City” added Lim.

Caption for the photos

Image 1- From left to right - AR / PLNR Pali Wijeratne, Mr. Calvin Tsao, Dr. Deborah Dearing, Prof. Harris, Trevor Gordon Stuart, Prof. David Dernie

Image 2- Nihal Fernando, Additional Director General / Project Director (Port City), UDA Sri Lanka addressing the gathering

Image 3-The winning design concept by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)