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SOM wins international design competition for Colombo Port City Master Plan in Sri Lanka

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Aerial view of the Colombo Port City Master Plan. Rendering: © SOM / Meshroom

Colombo, Sri Lanka – CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Limited (CPCC) has announced that Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP – the internationally renowned architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firm, in association with Grant Associates landscape architecture – won the International Urban Design Ideas Competition held for the Financial District and Marina District of the Port City Colombo. This Competition was conducted by CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd. according to the Guidelines of the UIA International Design Competitions- interpreting and implementing the UNESCO “Standard Regulations for International Competitions in Architecture and Town-Planning.” 

Comprising 269 hectares, Port City Colombo is a new city development built as an extension of the existing Colombo Central Business District (CBD). The Financial District and Marina District make up the central area of Port City. When complete in 2041, the master plan will transform Port City Colombo into a hub for commerce, tourism, and culture in South Asia.

A collaboration with CPCC, the Concept Master Plan by SOM offers a richness of urban opportunities and a robust framework with carefully designed public spaces. It presents a dynamic new vision for Port City Colombo that promises to deliver high quality urban environments for residents and visitors. The plan is designed to accommodate future growth and change within a sustainable development framework. SOM’s vision, selected as the unanimous winner by an international jury, was cited as demonstrating exceptional sensitivity to the ecological and cultural context of Sri Lanka. 

According to SOM’s proposal, the new skyline for Port City Colombo is composed to create a striking and legible profile with a clear hierarchy when viewed from key points within the city. Sri Lanka’s varied landscape and its complex tropical climate have influenced the conception of the future district's public realm. The squares, canal edges, gardens, a new harbour, and a new city park take cues from the local environment to create a sympathetic proposal that is rooted in the country’s unique geography and ecology. 

The strategy refers to the country’s diverse eco-system by creating a “Green Heart” and a “Blue Heart” to structure these vibrant future urban districts. Inspired by hanging gardens, the central civic plaza features shaded promenades that encircle a new city marina at the waterfront. The locally resonant design approach is also apparent along the canal edge promenade, where inlets of varying character reference the lagoons of Sri Lanka's rich and articulated coastline. 

A new cultural venue placed at the seafront and immediately adjacent to the CBD of Port City Colombo will encourage people to gravitate toward the waterfront and create an iconic backdrop to the marina.