Tuesday 11 February 2014

Studio work and presentation time

After a few days off to refresh and explore Sri Lanka, students regrouped at the University of Moratuwa to continue their design studio work on Weligama sites. A Young Planners session was also held with UoM undergraduate students, which included a getting to know each other icebreaker activity and devising collaborative solutions to contemporary planning scenarios.
Icebreaker activity at Young Planners Session

The following days were spent on the design studio component of Weligama and preparing the presentations for the final day.

Design studio work
Presentation day arrived quickly, with 5 project groups outlining their case studies and design responses for various sites including:
- Weligama Railway Precinct
- Weligama Town Centre
- Weligama beach (east and west)
- Midigma Turkish Village (Tsunami relocation project)
Presentation on Weligama Town Centre Design responses

Feedback on presentations from University of Moratuwa staff

Question time and feedback followed, with students' efforts recognised and the importance of understanding cross-cultural planning issues reflected upon.
With the presentations wrapped up, the group celebrated with a Sri Lankan barbeque and made their way to the airport to continue with further travel or return to Australia, while a number of students continued to explore Sri Lanka.



Fieldwork at Weligama fishing beach

The words 'group work' are enough to make most uni students cringe, but a whole new dimension is added when the exchange of ideas takes place across language and cultural barriers. Our usual modes of communication, and the assumptions of commonality they are based on must give way to a more elemental, considered process, so that both local knowledge and fresh perspectives can balance and harmonise to create intuitive solutions to the issues we are addressing.

Weligama beach (western end)

The western end of Weligama beach is an area removed from the general hubbub of tourism activity, home to the local fishing fleet and the activities associated with it - net mending, drying facilities and a fish market. Traversing the length of the beach, we were able to both observed the daily activities and engage with local fisherman, traders and tourists to get a snapshot off how the area is currently used. In this, our approach has been to ask 'why', as well as 'what' and 'how'.

Fishing boats at Weligama beach

Engaging with local fishermen


Our challenge is to preserve the identity of the area while enhancing its character to make a usable and enjoyable space for both locals and tourists, providing for expanding economic growth, and making the area more accessible from the town centre. With rapid changes spreading across Sri Lanka, particularly the Expressway joining Colombo and the south coast, we see the potential for Weligama to carve a niche where internal and international tourists can partake in an array of traditional and contemporary fishing, culinary and recreational practices, preserving and environment and culture that is both uniquely Sri Lankan and widely appealing.

Kate Clarke, Second Year
Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning

Thursday 6 February 2014

Midigama Turkish Village relocation project

Yesterday's site visit was an incredible experience where all students learnt a vast amount of information regarding the relocation of individuals who were affected by the 2004 tsunami. During our site visit we were able to have informal conversations with the local and visiting population, our sample included shop owners, government officials, elderly men & women, children and even one family invited us into their home and made us feel very welcome with a morning tea feast.
Students hearing from residents about life in the Tsunami relocation village 

A consensus was made amongst the students that the individuals relocated into this area were very happy and that the relocation project was successful. However, one lesson learnt was that if another disaster were to happen in the future the developers and designers need to consider the role and importance of food in particular cultures. A common suggestion we heard from the people was that the kitchens were far too small, therefore many of the families built on an extension where they were then able to have an outside kitchen.
Kitchen extension to Tsunami housing 
It was a fantastic experience in which we learnt some vital information that will help us in the future whichever career path we chose to take.

Midigama Turkish Village

Erin Smith
Bachelor of Community Development

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Hambantota - mega projects

La Trobe Uni lecturer Andtew Butt discussing the development of Hambantota
No urban planning trip to Sri Lanka is complete without visiting Hambantota, southern Sri Lanka. Large scale development  projects are currently underway to turn the region into a major urban centre through the construction of an international airport, convention centre, port, administrative centre and      cricket stadium.

Port of Hambantota visit 
Students were provided with an in-depth overview of the vision for the area and visited some of the key sites such as the Port of Hambantota, which is flagged to be a major economic driver for the region complete with a 48 hectare man-made "entertainment island".

Much lively discussion around mega projects ensued after which students departed their separate ways to explore Sri Lanka over some free time before the final phase of the study tour commences on Wednesday -- studio work on Weligama sites!

Monday 3 February 2014

Fieldwork continued - Weligama beach

This project aims to provide a urban design plan and restrictions for a particular focus area in the small town of Weligama. Our focus area for this project is the east end of  Weligama beach. This area is of particular importance as an international hotel is midway through a high rise development project on the beach front. This type of development is extremely out of place, and overshadows the serene and natural environment which surrounds it. It resides next to a popular strip of the beach which has multiple businesses for surfboard hire and lessons. 
Weligama beach site (East)

Next to the surfing area lies one of multiple local fish markets and fish netting repair stations. The various uses of the study area makes the planning for future use quite difficult, and the needs of locals and also visitors to the area needs to be taken into consideration. 

Local fishing industry
Our aim at the end of this project is to provide guidelines for future development which help to develop this area of the beach, and to encourage travel to the area to boost local economies, without encroaching substantially on and or relocating the markets. 

Roey Johnstone, Second Year
Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning 

Roey undertaking fieldwork at Weligama beach

Fieldwork in Weligama

Our project is to develop a tourism plan to better the Weligama area for an increasing number of tourists. Its expected increase is to be between 30,000 to 40,000 which has been calculated from previous developments of exits ramps from expressways.

We have been divided into five groups, two focusing on two different areas of the beach, the town centre and the train station. All groups have one or two Sri Lankan students to make communication a little easier. And one other group of Community Development students are looking at the Turkish village, a tsunami recovery project.

Chathura De Silva (UoM) providing site overview 

Our project focuses on the train station which is a node from the town centre and bus station. It is a two minute walk however access by foot and by car is crowded and somewhat dangerous. There is a lack of suitable footpaths and the roads are in need of an upgrade. The junctions surrounding the train stations are busy and dangerous. The traffic is increased when the boom gates are down.
Ideas so far have been to create footpaths, widen roads and re navigation of the junction. Drainage and parking are also issues that we are considering within our project.

Train station precinct group getting acquainted with site

Jacinta Morrissey and Verity Bright
Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning - Third Year