Monthly Archives: January 2007

Sunset at Kantale,Trincomalee

Taken by my dad, on his way to colombo yesterday from Trincomalee.

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Trip to see the Veddahs!

Well,,really tight with time, exams round my noose these days.. but thought ill just blog about something, and here i am blogging something about Veddahs.
Veddahs…all of us know that this group of people are the primitive inhabitants of Sri Lanka, living Primarily in Dambana, Mahiyanganaya and the outskirts. All though their very original dravidian ways have to an extent been distorted, they still sharply contrast in behaviour to us urban people..due to various reasons like being somehow segregated from development and urbanisation.
The picture above is that of some veddah kids that i was fortunate to get to pose when i went to dambana a few weeks ago. I was struck by their very innocent and humble ways in which they treated us Kolomba Udaviya (people from Colombo), Their language (supposedly the original language used in “Ceylon“) is fast dying primarily due to some of these children going to school to learn “Singhalese”!!.

“The dire plight of Sri Lanka’s declining Veddah population, however, is not likely to pass without coming to international notice. The United Nations proclaimed 1993 as the Year for the World’s Indigenous Peoples. But many regional and world bodies have begun to draw public attention to the exploitation of the world’s indigenous peoples who are especially vulnerable to modern economic predators.”

All in all, even though i was initially sceptical about the visit to Dambana being of any use, i had to promptly be meek to my own conscience when i realised that the visit finally ended up being constructive to me in several ways.

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Professional Standards Required to realise a design


“The survival of the fittest is the ageless law of nature, but the fittest are rarely the strong. The fittest are those endowed with the qualification for adaptation, the ability to accept the inevitable and to confirm the unavoidable, to harmonize with the existing or changing conditions.” – Unknown.

To be a competent designer in the rapidly progressive world of design, a designer has to conform to professional standards which have evolved over centuries of analysis, experimentation and coming to conclusions. This would be the benchmark that a designer would have to touch prior to setting his own design process in motion. As mentioned in the quote above, the “qualification for adaptation” is instilled in an individual more often than not, by years of study in a design school followed by a few years of work experience as an apprentice. This gives the designer a concise idea of what professional standards are.

Professional standards a designer requires to realize in design mainly deals with the standards he has to maintain ethically, technically, cost-effectively and aesthetically. These standards apart from conforming to set conventional (e.g. materials), must also be fully acceptable in the environment and the context in which the designer works (e.g. culture).

A designer considers technical knowledge as obligatory. As having a sound technical understanding would make the designer know the “cans” and “cant’s” when initially planning his design, and therefore his design will be well within the confines of manually executing it, rather that being a product of extreme creative imagination which may be striking to the eye when presented but would not be able to be physically implemented.

Technical knowledge is very important for designers to posses due to various other reasons too. It would give him that cutting edge in contrast to his peers and would be a powerful tool to excel in the design world, as the conjunction of creative thought and technical prowess would result in not only the design being physically realized, but knowing that level of technical data could be very cost effective too.

During construction it would be solely for the contractor to manually execute the design he has been given, and for this manual execution the contractor has to definitely posses technical knowledge, most contractors would know construction over years of experience as a building contractor, this makes it ever so important for the designer to posses technical knowledge, as failure to do so may either result in the whole project being a failure due to the contractor not being knowledgeable enough, or due to the contractor using his technical knowledge shrewdly enough to play out the designer by using extremely costly techniques. Hence, having sound technical knowledge is part and parcel of the professional standards a designer must adhere to.
Knowledge on technical expertise is partly born with in-depth knowledge of materials used for construction, their current acceptability and availability in the market. Knowing materials in depth means, knowing their properties and their versatility at use, being well informed of new materials and construction techniques in the market would mean the designer has more choice of using cost effective methods in construction, which would be an economical path to realizing his design whilst keeping his client happy.

When it comes to actual manufacturing of the idea of the designer, there are certain regulations and standard a professional has to adhere to, in terms of materials, ergonomics and various other factors.

When it concerns interiors, there are certain building regulations that are specifically related to construction. Like thicknesses of peripheral walls, partition walls, area of windows as a percentage of the total area etc. These regulations are put forth by various statutory bodies in different countries, in Sri Lanka building approval maybe taken from the local municipality, Urban Development Authority or the Pradeshiya Sabha, given that the design conforms to building standards. In certain product designs, international product standards like BSS or ISO are adhered to.

As a professional, administrative skills are of utmost importance. The administrative skills of a designer may perhaps be the thin line that actually decides if a design is actually implemented or not. Sticking to timelines and working to deadlines are characteristics for which designers have no excuse not to have.

For example an architect has to vigilantly administer the arrangement of working drawings, specifications, BOQ’s, tender documents and contract documents etc. Failure to do so may result in severe frictional constraints in the progress of the project. Hence, as a professional it is important to be orderly and methodical in ones activities.

All these may be overshadowed if the client is not attracted to the design, and the client has to be attracted both by the verbal and non-verbal presentations of the designer. So it is important that the Designer has good presentation drawings for the client to understand, as a layman would not understand technical jargon.

It is also important to be ethically sound in ones own dealings as a professional. In almost every case the only promotional campaigner for the designer is the client himself, as a happy client would recommend the designer to his friends and colleagues. Therefore, being ethically sound in ones own dealing is a very important professional standard a designer ought to possess.

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Saddam, Justice, the US and Islam

Saddam Hussein to me, before his capture and eventual execution was to me just another person who had a muslim name, and secular thought with a nationalistic flavour, A former US pupppet, dumped when he lost his worth.

But, on his death he created a totally diffrent perception to most youth like me. Any man does commit mistakes, and saddam is an “any man”. The cost of the mistake is something that is subjective, relative and perceptive. Ranasinghe Premadasa is a hero to some and a Villain to some others,for me i am too young to comprehend,i was barely eight when he died. Premadasa in his time crushed a chauvinistic nationalist rebellion with rigid brutality, again i was too young to wonder if what he did was right or wrong, yet one may ask, what if he didn’t do that ? where would those nationalistic elements stand today, and what havoc they will wreak. Can the same be said about Saddam the way he crushed a rebellion in Dujail (148 people), for which he was hung for ? the best people to say that would be the Iraqis themselves. Again i am not justifying what he did, just food for thought.

Saddams era was the time that Iraq had the most development post ottoman empire era, in terms of finance, litearature and science. But Still nowhere near the cradle of Islamic Civilisation that Baghdad once was. Saddam had killed much more people at a go, than this 148 people that he was accused for, then why was he poked only for this issue. The 148 people who were killed were Shia’s, and anyone interested in igniting sectarian Violence would understand that, that is the best place to prick the iraqi diaspora as a whole, and watch the consequences as a third party.

Let alone the way Saddam was executed, the way he was looked after as a prisoner violated all International ethics where POWs are concerned.

Slobodan Milosevic a war criminal who killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Bosnia-Herzogovina and Kosova was tried in the International court of justice at the Hague, and died a natural death, as his case kept delaying. Ariel Sharon, who killed thousands in the refugee camps of Shabra and Shatilla as a general, and later killed Palestinians as PM of Israel, let alone being asked to step down as PM, anyone who spoke against him would have been facing the raised eyebrows of the US. Forget about the death toll in Iraq since US occupation, from january 2006 to june 2006 alone there are UN reports noting 200,000 deaths., now who is responsible. In the search for one man, thousands are dying in Afghanistan, same question. And where do we see justice here? or do people of different ethnicities and faiths have blood of different values?

As a prisoner Saddam faced a lot, even his articulate lawyers were klled. Now what if a court of similar stature was used to some one who the west was interested in. Immedietly there would have been cries of “kangaroo court”. Saddam ought to have been tried in an international court of justice (at least), but that was not to be, as the americans feared that the result may not have been in their interest. And, death penalty was imminent for Saddam even before court proceedings began, court proceedings were just an act of melodramatic formality. The American involvement is pretty obvious in Saddams case from the very beggining, from the transportation they gave and the inteligence they supplied. Now the US army refutes these claims, and points at teh Shia led government of Nouri al Maliki, and would wait and watch as Sectarian Violence rips Iraq apart, and further “legitimizes” the American Stay in Iraq.

Islam Prohibits War and killing in the three or four months leading to the Hajj. Hence the claim of the present iraqi government that he was killed a day before or a few hours before is uttter rubbish. Even Saddams Secular law states that no execution shall take place in this perscribed time. This defying of the Islamic Shariah, clearly was a challenge and Insult upon the whole global Muslim community.The “use and Discard” principles of the US is evident when a few decades ago a US official is said to have told about saddam, “He is a son of a bitch, but he is “our” son of a bitch”.

To me the Secular Saddam, died as a muslim, further enhanced with his proclaiming of the Shahadah before his death, with the courage of conviction only a brave man could say. With everything lost, his country, his sons, his wealth and everything else and to be alone with a religious book (the Qur’an in this case) would give any sane man the opportunity to strengthen his inner faith and, and seek forgiveness for his sins.

Saddam Died with dignity, with no trace of fear and not a waver in his voice. What if he had died full of tears, begging for life and fearing death ? the gleeful tantrums of his killers would have no end. The way he died is a slap in the face to those who killed hm,when he died metaphorically challenging the masculinity of the perpretrators of his death, Imgine Nouri al Maliki, Hamid Karzai or George W.Bush in Saddams shoes at that point of time. I wont be surprised if they pee all the way.

Justice has to be implemented at grass root levels, for peace to be achieved., all men have blood that are similar in its constituents, existance at the cost of another is not the law of nature, rather something which Charles Darwin and Freidrich Engels came up with their masonic, materialstic philopsophy.

Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, outlined certain guidelines in life in his last Hajj, the Hajjatul Widah, soon after which he passed away. He left behind the following statement for all men to sit and think about,

“The aristocracy of yore has been trampled under my feet,the arab has no superiority over the non arab,and the non Arab has no superiority over the arab,also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action. All are children of Adam, and Adam was made of earth.”


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Operational Skills required to realise a design


“we know the truth not only through our reason, but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them” – Blaise Pascal (1623-62)

The first Accademia del disengo (Academy of Design) was founded in Italy in 1563. A century before Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher, writer and mathematician offered the quote above. Its emblem was three intertwined circles which represented the unity of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In Italian “Designo” means “Intent”. Ideation is vital not only to creative thought, but also to invention, ingenuity, imagination and originality, it is the intent – the truth of the essence of the thought- that constitutes the real value of the final product.

“Before the Renaissance, Creative Artists and Artisans made things that reflected their manual skills. But as knowledge developed in the period of enlightenment, it was recognised that other intellectual percepts – perspective, geometry, proportion, for example – should be included in the creative endeavour. Plans or models were necessary to express the intent in Architecture. Drawings were essential to explain the intent in furniture, furnishing, textiles, clothes and the decorative arts. The initial explanation of intent – the design – was elevated and separated from manual execution.” 1

For a design to evolve, first and foremost there has to be a necessity for it. And it is necessitated when designers search for a solution when dealing with a problem. Lets take a hypothetical scenario of a designer designing a high chair, for a toddler to have meals with the adult members of his family. This is a simple yet typical example of a problem to which a designer will have to come up with a solution for. Before realising the aesthetics of his design, the designer will have to consider the ergonomics and the anthropometric factors which would constitute his design.

The chair would have to be of a height which would be more than that of a normal chair, since it will have to accommodate a small being and give him the opportunity of being able to comfortably take part in the family dinner with the elders in the family.

Then comes the safety factor, the materials used for the product must be non toxic; the shape it takes must be devoid of sharp edges and must be flexible enough to accommodate the various postures a toddler may take.

Having overcome these hurdles, the designer has another very sensitive issue to tackle – colour. The designer has with him a choice of infinite number of colour combinations, some of which may hold the child in a mutually beneficial manner, i.e. whilst keeping the child happy and content they may also maintain the chairs aesthetic beauty and some others which may drag the child into an irritating mood. To achieve positive reactions from the child, it is imperative that the designer has a proper understanding of the child psychology, as it is for the child that the chair is designed for – and not for the designer himself. In a macro scale, this reflects the aspect of understanding the profile of the client.

It doesn’t end here – the designer may have come with an absolutely brilliant design for a product which may look effulgent when kept in isolation or segregation, but the essence of its beauty radiates only when it perfectly merges with the environment it co-exists with.

Finally, but definitely not off less importance, the design has to be within the budget of the client.

Therefore it is incumbent for the designer to consider the physical, psychological, societal and financial aspects prior to realising his design.

The need and nature of the client has a very demanding influence in the outcome of the design. More often than not, the client knows his requirement but not the fruit that suffices that requirement; it is to fulfil this requirement that he seeks the consultancy of a designer.

I.M.Pei, the celebrated Architect who has to his credit the glass pyramid at the Louvre, is quoted in a special issue of the Fortune Magazine , as saying –
“It makes two to make good architecture – a savvy client and a creative architect”.2

A savvy client would definitely be catalytic to the design process. But what if the Client is not so savvy, and doesn’t understand the design and construction process? It is at this juncture that the skill of the designer in convincing the client comes into play. The designer not only has to be armed with his conceptual drawings, sketches and 3D renderings, but he must also posses the confidence and skills in convincing the client of the effectiveness and importance of choosing his unique design.

To realise a design, the most important facet yet, that the designer must posses is “intuition”. This characteristic varies from designer to designer, and may be the very factor why a design signature is unique to each other, just like the finger prints all designers would have in the tip of their fingers.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia in the internet defines Intuition thus :
“Intuition is an immediate form of knowledge in which the knower is directly acquainted with the object of knowledge. Intuition differs from all forms of mediated knowledge, which generally involve conceptualizing the object of knowledge by means of rational/analytical thought processes (and, hence, placing a mediating idea or concept between the knower and the known).”

Therefore it is evident by the above quote that, a designer has to thoroughly involve himself with his work in mind, body and soul to blossom this creative ability which realises a design, which would make him different to his peers.

“ One characteristic designers are said to have is intuition. This is the Silver Bullet that confuses their observers and clients. Intuition means understanding self – evident truths that others cannot grasp. If those who stand on the outside of the design world could understand that this complicated, often inexplicable creative ability comes from the heart- which we all share – we could build bridges to ever more scintillating, successful relationships.” 3

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