Project Description

In a tightly woven urban residential fabric, stands this residence with a soaring facade -a lucid white statuesque dream crowned in the rubble, amidst the differing skyline. Almost impermeable from the exterior both visually and physically, its outward appearance creates a mysterious mask while lending the impression that the enclosure enwraps a solid and formidable dwelling. Yet, the spaces the envelope defines remain open, green and accessible.

Samuel house 1
Samuel house
Samuel house copy
Samuel house copy

Building Details

Private Residence

New building project

401 m²


344 m²

280 m²

200 m²

EURO 85,000

EURO 780



Project Team

MMGS Architects


Eng. Keerthi Ratnayake

Archt. Godridge Samuel

mmGSarchitects was established by Chartered Architect, M. M. G. Samuel in February 1998. The company comprises of a creative and energetic team of young Architects and Consultants capable of handling complex design problems. mmGSarchitects strives to achieve excellence by producing unique designs through creativity which reflects individuality of both client and practice and provide them with more dramatic spaces, even within limited parameters such as land extent, cost etc..

CQS. Sunanada Gnanasiri Quantity Surveyor

Climate Analysis

Colombo has tropical monsoon climate and has sunny days throughout the year. The city temperatures varies between 24-31 C throughout the year. During the monsoon season, Colombo gets heavy rainfalls. Usually April to May and September to November records highest rainfall figures to Colombo city. And the biggest problem with city of Colombo is the high humidity content. Cross ventilation and the shading is the best solution

Samuel house

Design Approach

The unambiguous façade is a response to the surrounding facades. Unsightly rear spaces of unauthorized constructions, neglected service areas contend with the expression of this design. Implementation of an ‘inward’ concept was the solution to this issue:through Raised walls & bamboo tats. The threshold imparts a modern vibe conveyed by materials such as glass & Aluminium. Sturdy main walls stand parallel, finished in the characteristic stone rubble. Cross walls are composed of glass & visually pervious material, which promotes efficient cross ventilation in a comparatively compact layout. The design narrative of this house is two-fold. Modern materials lend a contemporary effect, while stone, antiques, and rustic timber temper the tone of the scheme. The coalition of materials is implemented by varying mutations of a single design element: such as louvers finished in glass, aluminum or timber.

The living areas behold a pleasant surprise in the heart of an urban setting –a pristine lawn laced with fruit trees - an urban oasis, home to birds and squirrels, lulled by a constant charming breeze,a relaxing escape from the dense area.

The layout incorporating shaded, protected courtyards and gardens offers the best opportunities for passive cooling and light. The low plot coverage with an emphasis on open space is deemed to be advantageous. The prominent envelope, be it boundary walls or the built mass itself creates shade, protects from the highly urbanised neighbourhood and most importantly allows the effective use of outdoor spaces. the 'thin' building creates easy cross ventilation. Verandahs and overhangs offer effective shade possibilities for fenestration and indoor spaces.


Special Feature

Daylight optimization is one of the main strategies of saving energy consumption in the building. The external boundary envelope itself creates shade as a large vertical blade. Similarly large overhangs, double skins with openable timber screens augment this approach.


The building is located in an urban context where the all the buildings are connected with each other. The rear backyard is the only place where the landscape can bring some natural component to the building. The connection of the back yard and the house make the place much cooler. The solid side walls help to reduce the heat gain to the building. However, the linear site was handled to reduce the unnecessary heat gain to the building. The building materials pallet also help to reduce urban heat island effect/ Low albedo walling materials and color pallet of the building reduce unnecessary radiation from the building.

The approach to build 'small' and allow much of its site to be open is deemed an important consideration.

The primary approach is to build on the smallest footprint possible. Thus, enhancing the quantum of open space. A 'thin' built form shades, while optimising possibilities for cross ventilation.

Building Material

RCC frame structure

RCC structure

The prominent envelope is predominantly brick, masonry with random rubble finishes in selected areas.

Louvers finished in glass, aluminum or timber. Significant is the use of a roller shutter for the fenestration of the living area. This allows the space to be totally open, to the garden outside.

The flooring is predominantly cement float cut smooth and polished. A light, reflective surface is achieved enhancing daylight integration.

Light and natural finishes dominate. The white envelope both reflects and shades.

The terrace roof is an insulated, RCC slab. The terrace roof incorporates usable space as well as houses the solar panels. Plant troughs and vegetation in select places also increase opportunities for shade.

Energy systems

LED / CFL no controls adopted

LED no controls adopted

Ceiling fans are used only in the private areas. The more public areas of the house use floor standing fans.

Only for bed rooms. Split type A/Cs.


Solar PVs occupy almost all roof space that not utilised as terraces. Total area of the solar panels are 24 m2 Solar hot water panels are also used.
Pv panels on the slab roof 2

Lessons Learned

The challenge for the design team was the separation of the internal spaces from the otherwise unsightly surroundings in its urban context. The imposing 'envelope' successfully creates a habitable space within.