23 August, 2017

Metamorphosing Galle Face To An Iconic Landmark

By Nishthar Idroos

Nishthar Idroos

Many are the beautiful and most recognizable places of the world. Some of them breathtaking. awe-inspiring, spine-tingling, hair-raising, heart-stopping, list goes on. These sentiments and expressions not exaggerations but genuine and often spontaneous responses of people upon sighting a supreme natural wonder or seminal piece of living art constructed and erected for the viewing pleasure of the world’s public in major cities. Whether it’s the Eifel tower in Paris, Opera House in Sydney or the Taj Mahal in India, man’s genius at play. Bringing into fruition monumentally iconic symbols recognizable, recallable and permanently entrenched in the in the global psyche of humanity.

In most cases landmarks are skyscrapers, bridges, rivers, waterfalls of great historical and cultural value. Niagara Falls a city in Ontario, Canada blessed with the most breathtaking waterfall in the world. One of the world’s major tourist attractions. A spectacular site that attracts millions of tourists every year. The Golden Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate strait. The structure links the American city of San Francisco. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols.

The Galle Face is a five hectare ocean-side urban park, which stretches for a half kilometer along the coast, in the heart of the financial and business district of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The promenade initially laid out in 1859 by Governor Sir Henry George Ward. The original Galle Face Green extended over a much larger area than is seen today. It was initially used for horse racing and as a golf course. We are told that it was also used for cricket, polo, football, tennis and rugby. Very interesting indeed.

A popular destination for children, adults, vendors, teenagers, lovers, kite flyers and merrymakers, indulging in their favorite pastime next to the soothing sea under the open sky. On weekends land is busy with numerous activities. Day trippers, picnickers and food vendors. The quaint Galle Face Hotel Sri Lanka’s oldest, well patronized and popular hotel stands tall. Recent refurbishments with a distinctive façade has given the hotel a lot of character.

Sri Lanka is at crossroads. She is getting ready for a major economic take off. The feeling is palpable barring some political insanity. The emerging city skyline bears ample testimony to this phenomenon. The most important point in developing a concept for any public space agenda should be to identify and harness the talents and resources of the country. This is indeed key.

Public space development such as the Galle face is certainly not the exclusive domain of politicians or municipalities. It’s the discerning members of the general public who could meaningfully collaborate and contribute to transform a given public space to something truly quintessential and futuristic. A gigantic yet non-religious permanent structure reflecting the pristine culture of this blessed land would be something appropriate to explore. A piece of architectural marvel that would eventually become poignantly synonymous with Colombo. This is not something that can be accomplished overnight. It’s a time-consuming process but near immortality in the end.
In the west, it’s communities with its perceptive and insightful members that get involved and deliberate based on a strategic vision. It’s the community that can engender a historical perspective and acumen into how the area could function.

Transforming communities by collaborating with residents and other stakeholders to create high-impact built environments that improve daily lives is something either perpetually conceptual and systemic in the west. This writer was involved in the Strategic Planning process of a Public Space Project in Toronto Ontario. Regent Park Community revitalization program was to create a vibrant neighborhood. An ambitious project with public and private sector collaboration. It did achieve a lot. It was deliberated upon the following key values,

  • Extensive Planning and Community engagement
  • Multi-stakeholder process.
  • Resident associations to play lead role.
  • Focus on economic Development and Youth
  • Growing interest in Culture and Arts
  • Respond to existing and future needs of Residents.

Sound planning practices is of paramount importance for City Planning. Such a process ensures that a city is enriched with vitality and becomes a thriving urban center. The Galle Face Green has tremendous potential to be converted to a stunning urban renewal program provided right brains go into it, understanding well strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the site. In the backdrop of the mammoth Port City and colossal skyscrapers racing to the heavens it behooves that city planners are in control, concurring with right people to shape the city to something magnificent.

Urban planning guides orderly development in urban, suburban areas. Public spaces obviously are complex, organic matters usually with a veneer of ambiguity and perplexity. The best spaces evolve by experimenting with short-term improvements that can be tested and refined over a specific period of time. Places to sit, places to run and invigorate, a sidewalk café, a community event, a national event, an international event, a garden, a row of bustling boutiques, a row of super-clean eateries whose collective aroma piercing one’s nostrils to the point of a mild inebriation. These are examples  of  changes that capitalize on the creative energy of the community to efficiently generate new uses, experiences and revenue for places in transition.

Cities need to find ways to modernize and adapt to the growing world. Change taking place though slowly and organically. Cities also take a more proactive approach by doing anything and everything from eliminating cars to exploring underwater options. Even these kinds of activities are rapidly changing collective landscapes of cities. Creating colonies to ease over-population is something explored in the west.

Underwater habitation is not a bad idea. Unique ways nations are trying to position themselves.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    Nisthar ,150 years ago Galle face was well kept and groomed by the British when I see the picture i can smell fresh air. If the British ruled Ceylon now it would have been a much better place now.
    The first few wordings I wouldn’t agree with you ,what you get now is spineless and corrupt politicians who is swallowing everything which belongs to the nation and I wouldnt agree on hair raising either it is cock raising what you can witness now .Patheic….

  • 1
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    As I always maintained that we have to have another Kandyan convention with the Colonial types to save our country and bring back the old glory which was declining since 1948.

  • 2
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    Mr Idroos – Are you suggesting that a building or monument of some kind be put up on Galle Face Green?

    If so I must vehemently disagree with you. The retention of the Green as an open uncluttered space must be defended at all costs. It has already shrunk to a sad fraction of what it once was. And now the 180 degree view of the ocean that is part of its beauty is to be blocked by the Port City.

    When I last visited it at the beginning of January it was a real mess with huge advertising boards at the hotel end and all the paraphenalia associated with the unfinished giant Christmas tree at the other end. And, of course, the Green is no longer green.

    It is a precious — threatened — visual and recreational island in an overcrowded city. Please don’t suggest any further encroachments.

    • 2
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      Absolutely not. What I am thinking is, now that huge land recovery from the ocean is already in progress, to get some additional land to erect something visually tall, appealing and iconic. Well supported with modern illumination technology.

      Nishthar Idroos

      • 0
        0

        Like the Great and Beautiful Christmas Tree, you mean ?

  • 2
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    With a Little Dedication and Honest Work this place could have been transformed to look somewhat similar to the Esplanade in Singapore or Sydney Harbour Bridge. There were Palmyra trees planted a great cost many years ago. However, some politician in all their wisdom decided to erect Fibre Glass Pillars that sever no purpose other than Political Pomp and Foolishness. The green needs to be watered. Proper Toilets built and maintained. A few Life Guards etc. would do wonders.

    Firstly the Stalls need to be regulated, with Hygiene and cleanliness being the number one priority. All Nana’s Toyna’s need regulated and monitored. The food they sell is some time more potent than than strongest laxative.

    However, given the corrupt nature of our politicians and bureaucrats forget galleria face green our entire country is turning into a cesspit.

  • 1
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    Couple of months ago I had the occasion to visit Split (Croatia). They have a lovely seaside promanade replete with affordable food stalls, benches, palm trees etc. City planners should visit this promanade to get some inspirations to further redevelop the Galle Face. Right now the Galle Face is a complete eyesore with decrepit food stalls and stray dogs.

  • 1
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    Create a rainforest here, similar to south park in New York!

  • 0
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    I think Galle Face was build during governor Havlock.Why not have real monuments to people like them who did something useful for the people?
    We seem to build monuments and rename roads with the names of roughish politicians.

  • 0
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    What used to be called “Galle Face Green” should be now called “Galle Face Brown”. Miss the days when we as kids used to run and play on the then larger grassy area and breathe in fresh air, instead of the polluted stuff now. The place was also free of too much of noisy vehicles. Alas, this is the price of “development” everywhere.

  • 0
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    It’s only a matter of time before someone manages to sell off GFG to a developer to build more hi-rises.

    There’s money to be made there.

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