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T

ea Factories are indeed an integral part o f the landscape of the hills o f Sri Lanka. I n the total transformation o f the landscape by the plantation i n d u s t r y , these l a r g e , u t i l i t a r i a n buildings become landmarks in an otherwise endless carpet o f green. Like e v e r y t h i n g else o f t h e p e r i o d , t h e ingenuity and practicality of the Victorian engineer finds fulfilment i n this particular b u i l d i n g type. I n a

bridges a n d railway stations, t h e tea in 1927 a n d disused for t h e past 30 factories are the industrial vernacular years is probably the most convincing o n the production end o f a vast empire of such projects done in Sri Lanka. of tea trade. The Project, initiated by an enthusiastic Redundant industrial b u i l d i n g s have director o f a major business house i n been seen as a ready stock o f building C o l o m b o , w a s t o c o n v e r t t h e t e a easily reused and forming a part o f the f a c t o r y o f t h e H e t h e r s e t t e s t a t e , redevelopment o f the inner suburbs of incidentally a factory o n the highest many modern cities. A whole tradition elevation o n the island, into a habitable of conversions has been the focus o f a place. The o l d building itself was found

THE TEA FACTORY


A T R A N S F O R M A T I O N

The Tea Factory and its period w h e n speed o f construction meant entering the market a n d thereby making profits more quickly, the tea f a c t o r y is a m a s t e r p i e c e o f p r e f a b r i c a t e d industrial e n g i n e e r i n g . A l o n g w i t h t h e elegant i r o n girder
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surrounds by the architect i n an excellent state of preservation, having been p u t t o use for a mere 30 or 35 years. Spectacularly sited o n the crest o f a hill, overlooking a g a p i n the eastern slopes o f t h e central mountains w i t h a view d o w n to 27

By C h a n n a D a s w a t t e large a m o u n t o f w o r k i n t h e recent past. T h e Conversion of the redundant tea factory o f the Hethersett Estate built

the Randenigala reservoir, it is a well p r o p o r t i o n e d , corrugated iron clad b u i l d i n g w i t h a standardised 11' i r o n structural frame. Like all tea factories the g r o u n d floor housed the m a i n production machinery, w h i c h are heavy and require firm anchoring. The upper floors were used only for the willing of t h e leaf. T h e s e w e r e l a r g e , t i m b e r floored open spaces with drying racks tor several thin layers of leaf a n d no more then live or six persons w o r k i n g o n t h e m at a n y g i v e n time. A large centralised m u l t i p l e height space installed w i t h fans made in the tradition of t h e s p i t f i r e aircraft p r o p e l l e r s of laminated w o o d circulated air to speed u p this process. The problem faced b y t h e a r c h i t e c t w a s h o w t o l o a d this structure more than ten fold and insert the services r e q u i r e d f o r a h o t e l operation and still retain its integrity so that the inhabitants felt the magic of living inside a production facility 7000 feel a b o v e sea l e v e l . A l l t h e interventions had to have the spirit of a Victorian engineer of the industrial age, but a d d u p t o t h e m o d e r n conveniences of an international hotel.

a l o u n g e , f r o m w h i c h an o l d t i m b e r stair leads to the bar, the only public r o o m o n t h e first floor. The d i n i n g r o o m wraps a r o u n d this space, thus

bedrooms. The planning here has been determined by the proportions and spacing o f the elegant teak w i n d o w s that are o n the face of the building. A n

Typical Bed Room concentrating all the activity generated by the m a x i m u m o f 100 occupants in a s i n g l e large area, save f o r a n o t h e r l o u n g e bar o n the other side o f the reception. This obviously helps in the social processes which are an integral p a n of the life o f a hotel. elegant strategy o f using every other bay for a bedroom and the in between b a y as t h e t w o b a t h r o o m s w o r k s extremely well. T h e rooms are strung on double loaded corridors opening o f f the galleries around the central multiple storey space. This planning follows what is i n fact the inevitable dictates o f the building

The layout o f the facility concentrates the p u b l i c r o o m s a n d m a i n s e r v i c e facilities o n the ground floor, where an extension is built to house the stores T h e u p p e r floor w i l t i n g a n d d r y i n g and extra services required by the r o o m s a r e a l l c o n v e r t e d i n t o 50 hotel, in the same coraigated iron clad a r c h i t e c t u r e w h i c h n o w l o o k s as t h o u g h it w a s always there. T h e o l d c h i m n e y stack takes o u t the exhaust from the kitchen and the o i l tank holds the extra water supply required by the fire f i g h t i n g e q u i p m e n t . T h e s i m p l e entrance canopy o n the centre o f the long side o f the building opens of the m u l t i p l e height space w h i c h formally c a r r i e d d r a u g h t s o f h o t air i n t o t h e wilting racks a n d is n o w the reception and main vertical circulation space. A n o p e n i r e a d t i m b e r staircase w r a p s around an o l d caged lift, leaving all its w o r k i n g pails and the occupants of the lift i n full view. O n either side o f this central space are the other p u b l i c rooms, all separated not unlike in any f a c t o r y , b y screens o f glass p a n e d w i n d o w sashes. O n t h e e n d w h i c h looks over the most spectacular view is 28

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and its siting. As any g o o d architect, Nihal Bodhinayake, has been able to see the w h o l e building as if it were as a 'site' o n w h i c h to make interventions that seem i n e v i t a b l e . H i s s k i l l as a d e s i g n e r a n d m e t i c u l o u s n a t u r e is d i s p l a y e d best h o w e v e r , i n p u t t i n g together t h e details o f design. H i s a p p r o a c h has t h e same r i g o u r o f an engineer first commissioned to produce an efficient building. T h e major p r o b l e m o f s t r e n g t h e n i n g the structure is elegantly married to the existing structure, that if not for t h e differentiating paint, red for n e w a n d green for o l d throughout, the n e w additions could have been part o f the o l d structure. T h e n e w strengthening structure literally wraps itself a r o u n d the o l d 'H' irons physically and visually s u p p o r t i n g them. I n the upper floors the partitions are entirely o f stud walls, so as t o reduce the loading, a n d also meet u p to the most exacting international standards for fire p r o t e c t i o n . Fine corrugated iron line the corridors. T h e timber floors in the public rooms are all held d o w n b y a p r e c i s e p a t t e r n o f brass s c r e w s enhancing the total industrial aesthetic further c o m p l e m e n t e d by the lighting that uses bare bulbs held o n galvanised i r o n p i p e s . A l l t h e s e r v i c e s arcelegantly integrated w i t h the structure and is i n full view, making them very m u c h a part o f the general ambience along w i t h sections o f the o l d shafts a n d w h e e l s that r a n t h e m a n y machines in the factory that have been deliberately left over. In this age o f e n v i r o n m e n t a l degradation a n d w a n t o n misuse o f resources, this project seems to point a way t o the reuse o f existing resources to fulfill n e w needs. Recycling materials have been a part o f the building trade in this country for some time, however the effective conversion of buildings is yet to catch on. This project stands as a p o i n t e r t o w h a t potential an existing b u i l d i n g stock can have. Most o f the older more solidly constructed b u i l d i n g s are a valuable resource o f material and energy which can be reused with imagination. Understanding the logic o f the initial builders a n d a rigorous application o f that logic to the n e w interventions can result i n a product that manages to live a second life that is enriched b y t h e former.
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Note: The photographs

were taken by Mr. Gemunu

Amarasinghe 29