City School of Architecture



Mr Roven Rebeira, a Final Year student of the City School of Architecture (CSA), was awarded a commendation in the Silver Medal category at the Royal Institute of British Architects, Presidential Awards 2016.

John-Paul Nunes, Head of Education Projects of the RIBA sent his congratulations on this outstanding achievement, which makes the design project, ‘Centre for Ethno-Elephantology: A cross-species design initiative’, one of the best out of 275 entries received from 87 Schools of Architecture in 33 countries. The only other two entries which received commendations in the Silver Medal Category were from The University of Westminster, UK and Aalto University in Finland.

During these awards the RIBA also gives credit to the design tutors, who tutored the winning student, and Tamara Wijepala and Samanthika Piyasena from CSA, accompanied Mr Roven Rebeira to London on 6th Dec 2016 to receive the award from Jane Duncan, President of RIBA.

At the Award ceremony RIBA President Jane Duncan said, Quote: “congratulations to each of the medal winners. I am delighted to see the breadth of talent from across the globe recognised through these awards, now celebrating their 180th anniversary. The students’ ability to detail complex ideas and present them beautifully is outstanding. Tonight’s winners are talent to watch - I can’t wait to see what else they will go on to achieve”

The project aims at blurring the boundaries created by human cities. It attempts to soften the edges where cities meet animal habitats and create a symbiotic relationship between different species, namely the Human and the Elephant. This is done through the design of a deployable system on the edge of habitats which is adaptable as resistant human dwellings, non-harmful deterrent mechanisms and symbiotic spaces catering to both species.

Roven Rebeira explores how architecture can create symbiotic environments for both humans and wildlife at the sensitive borderland areas where cities meet animal habits.

His Project, the centre for Ethno-Elephantology, focuses on the co-existence of elephants and humans at the Udawalawe Nature Reserve in the South Sri Lanka.

‘The Fundamental exploration in this project was to deconstruct the notion that architecture is simply a vehicle to address the series of needs of the “human animal”,’ he says. ‘Can Architecture in fact respond to the needs of other animal species?’

Rebeira used research on elephant behavior, biology, habitats and social structuring to inform the design of the research centre and surrounding landscape, with particular attention on finding an alternative to the electric fence as a way of controlling the human-animal habitat interface

Construction is accompanied by an awareness programme to show local people, who currently feel threatened by elephants, how they could benefit economically by the new approach. This would use the style of architecture to limit damage caused by elephants to farming and homes.

Buildings are created using earth bag layered construction with bamboo as the roof and support structure. A domed form was chosen because it distributes the force equally and so performs better if attacked by an elephant. It also references the temples and granaries of traditional Sinhalese culture.

A new Model village for researches and other visitors is proposed between the centre itself and the nearby fishing community.

Other strategies include providing corridors for elephant migration, edged with a ‘living’ fence of durian and Palmyra trees, plus the planting of deterrent crops adjacent to the fence

A condenced version of nature reserve, with similar landscape conditions, is provided for rehabilitating orphaned elephants before their return to the wild.