Australian High Commission

Location: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Client: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Status: Completed 2007


The new compound and buildings were designed to not only meet the functional and cost objectives established by DFAT but to provide a Chancery Building that was both thoughtful and considerate in the way it responded to the social, religious, climatic and environmental conditions of the Colombo and Sri Lanka. This was considered important in not only laying the foundations of Australia’s relationship with Sri Lanka but demonstrating the importance of designing for place. Through this approach key design features also allow the concealment of security requirements that enable the building to maintain its welcoming ambiance essential when developing long term International relationships. The design took strong cues from Sri Lanka’s architectural heritage in particular the work of Geoffrey Bawa and the blending of colonial British architecture with unique Sri Lankan detailing and consideration. This approach was driven by a direct response to the very harsh tropical environment, with high humidity, temperatures and rainfall. In exploring these environmental conditions the subsequent design of the High Commission, focused on a building that could cope with the extreme heatload but also understanding that much of the social activity within Sri Lanka does occur ‘outside’ and recognising this the building planning offered a more social link between the pool and the less formal aspects of the facility. The resultant covered entertainment area, links directly to the staff bar opening up the space to benefit from the increased area available externally. This particular space has become a popular place for staff and visitors to the High Commission to meet and catch up. Through the use of sunshading, large overhangs ‘local’ materials, and use of colour what is a large building in scale feels appropriate and understated in its residential setting. The building enhances the existing architectural context of the surrounding colonial houses, reflecting the traditional use of stone and timber in Sri-Lankan architecture. 


Photography: Eresh Weerasuriya