Today Dilummini de Mel is not only an architect with a busy practice but is also thoroughly involved in working with the professional body – the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, giving her time to impart her professional knowledge to create better environments for the less privileged while not neglecting her duties as a housewife and a mother of two growing children of 11 and eight respectively. Her talent lies in balancing the myriad of roles she plays throughout the day so that one role does not interfere with the other.
By Aminah Marikar and Mayanthie Jayasinghe
Her creativity was evident from her formative years as a student of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya. She recalls how she was “keen in making dresses with any material she would lay her hands on, and create something unusual”. By the time she completed her secondary education, she knew that she wanted to be a professional Architect. This made her join the City School of Architecture soon after completing her A level exams where she commenced her architectural studies two days of the week for two years. During this time, she received her A level results and was selected to follow a degree course in architecture. The orientation course required her to work in an office and the young Dilummini chose to work in an architectural practice of Archt. Shelton Wijeratne. Hard work and determination made her graduate with honours from the University of Moratuwa in 1994. The Architect recalls with respect and affection the unstinted support she received from her father to further her ambitions.
Archt. Dilummini has fond memories of her brief stay at CSA and vividly remembers being critiqued by Archt Anura Ratnavibhushana on a project titled ‘THE HOUSE’. “His confidence in my design skills then, gives me encouragement in my work even today,” she smiled.
Reminiscing of her university days she recalled that projects like “the settlement of Modera fishing community” at the university exposed her to a variety of ideas with reference to urban fabric and the public realm. It maybe such influences in her formative years which makes Archt. Dilummini consider it her duty to volunteer her services as a professional in projects such as designing Tsunami Housing for the UDA, designing a school and hostel in Galle for children with Down’s Syndrome, organizing awareness programmes for disability access to buildings and currently representing the SLIA at the Ministry of Health to formulate a strategy to develop architectural aspects to eradicate mosquito breeding in the built environment.
She worked as a trainee in the practice of Archt. Milroy Perera where she was privileged to have had the opportunity of working on developing the working drawings for the Blue Water Hotel, Wadduwa, based on the conceptual drawing of Archt. Geoffrey Bawa.
Her philosophy in architecture is “practical art not mere art”. She avoids elaborate detailing in her designs for practical as well as economical reasons. “Less details add more aesthetic value,” she elaborated. Simple and uncommon are the hallmarks of her designs. It is also her advice to young architects. “Interpreting one’s concept into buildable tangible spaces should be the objective of any student. And those concepts should not stagnate merely at a well thought out story,” she elaborated.
”Today, the academic approach to architecture has advanced and students prefer technology to manual art,” said Archt. de Mel. However she believes that design does not become a slave to technology but rather that technology serves as an assistant to interpretation of design.
Archt. Dilummini’s commitments to the advancement of the profession needs to be emphasized. She recalls that it was Archt. Rukshan Widyalankara who was the President of the SLIA at the time and in whose practice she was working at the time who entrusted her with organizing a seminar on Disability Access to buildings. Since then she has been involved in organizing various aspects of the Annual Sessions from the very formal inauguration of sessions as well as the Fellowship Nite into memorable events with ease. She currently serves in the Council of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects. She is a visiting Design tutor at the University of Moratuwa and the City School of Architecture. She has published articles on aspects of Architecture in the newspapers and has had the pleasure of seeing her projects featured in the print and electronic media.