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Yodakandiya Community Complex


In the District of Hambantota situated on Sri Lanka's south coast, Architecture for Humanity worked in partnership with UN Habitat and the local community to build three community buildings comprising a Community Center, a Library & Medical Centre and a Preschool. A new landscaped sports and recreation area was created as part of the community complex.

The buildings occupy a spectacular site located on the edge of Yala National Park, overlooking tropical forested mountains and Yoda Wewa, a vast reservoir constructed by the ancient Kings over 2000 years ago.

This project forms part of a larger program implemented by the UN and funded by the Italian Government, which involves the resettlement of 218 families affected by the tsunami. The Hambantota District was severely affected by the tsunami of December 2004 where there were a reported 1,342 deaths, 6,652 people injured and 12,028 people displaced. In total 2,374 houses were either partially or completely destroyed, representing 45% of the total housing stock. Many of the beneficiaries were involved in the fishing industry at nearby Kirinda.

The resettlement program engaged the beneficiaries directly in all aspects of their individual and communal rehabilitation by assigning the responsibility of program decision making upon them. This has been done by establishing "Community Development Councils" through democratic election, and these councils met regularly to articulate their needs and priorities with assistance from the UN.

Such a development strategy has been adopted partly to ensure satisfaction of the end user and partly to help reconstitute those local social support networks existing prior to the tsunami that bound communities together and addressed their welfare needs. Through this process Architecture For Humanity has been able to develop a design with the community that responds directly to their requirements.


  • A series of design workshops took place between December 2005 and February 2006. The following brief was established:

  • Community Center including the main hall with stage and backstage areas—approx. 300-person capacity with associated Store, Kitchen and Bathroom facilities. Offices for the Grama Niladhari (the local Government Officer) and the Community Development Councils. 3,165 ft² / 295 m²

  • Library, Computer Center and Medical Center. 1,735 ft² / 160 m²

  • Preschool, with a place for Worship, an Office, Sick Room, Store Room, Bathroom and external Play Area. 1,815 ft² / 170 m²

  • Landscaped Park Area, including cricket pitch, seating, soft landscaping and small interventions to create shaded spaces for informal gatherings. 3.25 acres (13,000 m²)


    Always a problem in the hot and humid tropics is the concern of creating a comfortable environment. As the project has neither the budget nor agenda to provide air conditioning, methods of passive cooling are being incorporated as follows:


  • The community facilities have been split into separate buildings to allow ventilation of all external spaces.

  • Rooms are arranged in a linear configuration orientated approximately perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction for best cross ventilation.

  • A large roof is to be provided to maximise shade and minimise heat gains. As Sri Lanka lies close to the equator, East and West-facing vertical surfaces receive most radiation and therefore the largest projections of the roof will be on these elevations.

  • The large surface area of the roof provides a large area over which convection, heat exchange and long-wave radiation heat loss can occur, which reduces heat gains during the day and increases heat release during the night.

  • The roof form increases the height of the interior space to permit the warm interior air to rise high above the occupants.

  • A high-level opening in the roof of the Community Centre permits the hot air to escape while the interior remains protected from rain.

  • Open spaces between the walls and roof allow full ventilation of the roof space preventing trapped heat, controlling moisture and humidity and increasing the cooling process through movement.

  • The difference in height between air inlets (elevations) and outlets (roof) takes advantage of the stack effect.

  • Large openings are used on both sides of the building to account for the seasonal reversal of the wind direction.

  • Doors and windows are designed as open frames with steel rods for security and ventilation purposes. In this way air movement can occur at body level assisting evaporative cooling of the body.

  • The walls of the building are constructed out of clay bricks, which have good insulating properties. The bricks are formed in the Rat Trap bond, which articulates internal cavities, thus further increasing the insulative properties of the wall.


    Design workshops focused on the actual processes of construction and procurement, as the community members themselves were responsible for the construction of the buildings. This was critical to achieving the development aims of a participatory methodology and involved the awarding of grants in the form of Community Contracts.

    In this way the affected Community not only retained control and ownership of their own buildings and facilities but also benefited directly from the funding by carrying out the physical works themselves. Other benefits of this system were that the construction quality was higher than that of commercial contractors and local entrepreneurship was encouraged within the community, regenerating the local economy and promoting skills transfers.

    The campus was completed in 2007. The design fellow has been in touch with community members since. Raising additional funds as possible. The project has had a post-occupancy review where remediations were be addressed and funds were used for adaptation and repair.


    Uddakandara Yodakandiya
    Tissamaharama, Hambantota, Southern
    Sri Lanka
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    Project Details

    NAME: Yodakandiya Community Complex
    PROJECT LEAD: Susi Platt
    LOCATION: Uddakandara, Tissamaharama, Hambantota, Southern, Sri Lanka
    START DATE: December 14, 2005
    CURRENT PHASE: Construction complete
    COST: $104000 USD (Unspecified)
    SIZE: 6175 sq. ft
    PROJECT TYPE: Community Center
    , Do Something, LEF Foundation
    PROJECT PARTNER: Pinsara Federation of Community Development Councils
    , UN Habitat
    BENEFICIARIES: The families of Yodakaniya