Project Description

A Holiday home on a hill in a mixed rubber / Tea plantation. The project mostly uses materials drawn from the immediate environment. It was built by local estate mason. The building is purposely buried into the hill to avoid a front and a back. The entrance tunnel to the inner court yard rises vertically to the upper level. The original excavated stone now exposed is the centerpiece in the courtyard. The excavated stone is used throughout the construction of the courtyard and the building. Rainwater deposited in the central courtyard is collected in a pond and diverted to collection. Being in a plantation the low erosion protection dry walling gradually rise up to carry the building. The building is kept simple as it would be foolish to compete with, but celebrate the changing view.

Horana 2
Horana house
Horana house copy
Hoarana house copy

Building Details

Private Residence

New building project

12,000 (includes area of the estate that the residence sits within) m²


508 m²

508 m²

EURO 60,300

EURO 120



Project Team

ADV Consultants Pvt Ltd

Mr. Sumathipala - Labour contractor

Eng. Wasantha Chandrathilake

Archt. Ashley de Vos

FSLIA, RIBA. Chartered Architect, Landscape Architect and Conservation and Heritage Management, Faculty Member - University of Moratuwa, International Centre for Conservation, Rome (ICCROM) and ACCU (Nara, Japan). Director Conservation to the Jetavana Monastery Conservation Project. An advisor to the Government of India on tourism development of the Northern Buddhist Sites. Past President of ICOMOS (Sri Lanka) and Wildlife & Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka. Awardee, South Asian Architect of the Year and Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (SLIA) Special Life Time Award of Excellence. Honoured with national awards of Vidya Jyothi and Deshamanya.

Archt. Ashley de Vos

Archt. Ashley de Vos

Climate Analysis

A popular area for plantation activity. A regular water supply in the valley. Exposed to South West monsoon and inter monsoonal rains. The environment could be hot during the day and cold at night.

House on a hill  horana

Design Approach

The building has no front or back. Excavation into the hill permits on arrival at upper level, the celebration of a 360 deg view. The rising sun and that includes Adams peak in the morning and the setting sun and Colombo city in the evening. Undulations in the retaining walls are meant to reflect and imitate the hills in the distance. The dry walls normally used to control erosion grow in height to become the walls of the building. Walls are integrated into the existing environment.

All walls are protected from the direct sun. Through ventilation is used extensively and the owners complain that the inside of the building is cold during the night. Disintegrated rock excavated from the site used for all walling material. Exposed on outside and parts plastered on inside. Some walls are in brick left exposed.


Special Feature

Designed for natural light, the deep eaves of the roof provide shading for fenestration and walls.

Rain water collected / diverted for irrigation purposes.

The whole building works on a carefully thought out cross ventilation system. All spaces naturally ventilated. The wind from the land as well as the sea is carefully chanelled in to the inner space.

Disintegrated rock excavated from the site used for all walling material.

The project sits inside the hill and is totally protected. Colours are meant to blend not stand out. The forest of endemic trees planted at the entrance are now grown. Shields the building from the North and it also provides privacy for the swimming pool.

Only traditional methods of construction have been used.

Building Material

RCC frame structure, with load bearing random rubble retaining walls and walls.

Random rubble retaining walls and RCC frame structure, become both foundation and wall.

Disintegrated rock exposed on the outside plastered on inside. The load bearing structure is material obtained from the site itself.

Timber framed, single glazed doors, french windows and windows, include a timber slat louver above, allowing ventilation.

Cement floating finished smooth for verandahs. Terracotta tiles for interior spaces. Both surfaces are polished.

Finishes are kept natural. Kept fair-face in more public areas.

Timber sub frames/ precast concrete tiles, weight required to prevent tile lift off due to wind.

The pool is incorporated into the primary structure that grows to out of the hill.

Energy systems

Bulbs are CFLs. All light shades have been designed by architect and manufactured by the local blacksmith.

Exterior lights use CFLs with timer switch controls in selected areas.

Celing fans form the primary means of enhancing natural ventilation within the interiors.



Exterior lights use CFLs with timer switch controls in selected areas. Hot water is provided by solar heaters

Net metering was not available at the time of construction. But it is now been considered.

Lessons Learned

"Very successful project. Loved by all who visits" - Archt. Ashley de Vos

The owners are very proud of what has been created for them. The envy of their friends.

So far no major issues. Care taken to ensure that rain water is taken to collection and disposed.