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Green House

Since ancient times, Sri Lankan architecture has primarily emphasized the tropical climate and biological factors. Even if they were unaware of more modern, sophisticated architectural techniques, our ancestors had the skills necessary to build solid, long-lasting homes out of whatever materials they could find.
The wattle and daub construction technique was used to create this straightforward home, or "Mati ge," as it is known in Sinhala. The reason rural people were limited to this technology was because it was economical and environmentally friendly.
  • A frame of poles is sunk into the ground.
  • The poles are woven with reeds or jungle vines horizontally between the poles to make a mat-like screen. 
Then, mud or clay chunks are placed in the void between the interior and exterior walls. Afterward, a moist mud mixture is plastered or daubed on both sides of the walls.

Currently, people in Sri Lanka build well-sized two- or three-story homes using cement, bricks, steel, etc., and these homes are built on concrete structures, of course, due to the development of construction materials and modern design in both rural and urban areas. Even though wattle-and-daub homes are still common in rural regions, strict regulations had been put in place regarding house construction during the reign of the early Sinhala monarchs. These limitations ought to have encouraged the general populace to plan and create modest architectural designs. Residents aren't allowed to build homes higher than one story, cover them in tiles, or use lime to whiten their walls, but there is white mud that they occasionally use instead, according to Robert Knox, who was forced to stay on the island as a hostage.

The walls were constructed with natural clay, coarse sand, and wood, and the roof was thatched with dried cadjan. On the flooring, dirt and cow dung were applied. The humid tropical climate of Sri Lanka is excellent for this style of house construction. The porosity of the clay absorbed moisture when it was cool and humid outside, especially at night. The fluid was released during the daytime when it warmed up. It effectively rendered the house's interior "air-conditioned" by preventing heat from transferring through the walls.

In the past, their homes were divided into two sections: a private space and a public one. Women and kids were typically only allowed in the inner room or the private area. The pila, or public space, was the verandah. Men used it for sleeping and, more specifically, for entertaining guests. Due to the home's shoddy or barely furnished interior, the verandah or pila was an open space with short walls where both residents and guests might sit.

The kitchen had a key role in this straightforward architecture. Depending on the region, the kitchen was situated in a different room. In sections of the Hill Country and Wet Zone Coast, where there was a lot of rain and humidity, the kitchen was built right into the house. Yet, in the dry zone, it was a second section on a different building with side walls. The winnowing fan, the mortar and pestle, the grinding stone, and numerous other tools were left out in the open.

It was noteworthy to note that the windows and doors in these old homes were smaller than those in modern homes. Perhaps they should have built the doors and windows in this manner simply to prevent heat and sunlight or to maintain the privacy of their home. On the other hand, they should not have had much ventilation inside the house.

Building a house was also interesting. It was a collective effort of the whole family with collaboration from the neighbors, so it was definitely a community effort’ to accommodate a family in a new abode. In the course of the construction works, no money was paid for labor, but only meals were provided, and they really enjoyed a festive spirit of collectiveness and cooperation that lasted during the construction works. The womenfolk too actively contributed to some purposes of this process, for instance, preparing the clay mixture, making lumps out of it, weaving cadjan, applying the clay-cow dung paste on the floors, etc.

  • First, the plinth or floor structure was demarcated.
  • Then, the roof and the timber structure were built.
  • The sub-frame was traditionally built with milled timber.
  • The steeply pitched roof was distinctive of the style of housing.
  • It was very effective in shedding rainwater off the surface of the roof.

All that was used to cover the roof was cadjan, which is made of the braided coconut palm, palmyra, straw, or grass, mostly luck or mana, or occasionally a combination of all these materials. In order to prevent the mud walls from being wet during the rainy season, a large overhang was built, extending roughly three feet from the wall. It also provided the house with wind protection. Others were engaged in making the mud mixture after the roof's construction was finished or even in the middle of it.

  • The natural clay, or mud, was brought from nearby quarries.
  • Water was added and trampled until it formed a homogenous mass.
  • It was left out in the open for three days to mature before being used.
  • In some areas, chopped straw was mixed with the mud as reinforcement against cracks that appeared later in the mud.

While there was no foundation per se, there was a plinth that was about two to three feet above the ground to provide protection from the weather and any local insects. To avoid the requirement for a separate foundation, the walls and plinth were constructed to blend. With mud balls stacked one on top of the other until they reach the required height; this plinth was constructed as a boundary wall. The center was then filled with earth, pounded with water, and then flattened after being allowed to dry for a week.

Mud chunks were inserted into the wood and vine framework to create walls. The mud balls are struck with a soft touch and incredible finesse. The walls were constructed in sections, usually leaving three feet to dry before finishing the remaining half.

The second coat of demati, or coarse sand and clay, was then applied. In some places, the combination also includes paddock husk. This was used as a final layer to level and smooth the wall's surface.

Sand and ant-hill red clay, also known as "human mati," was typically used to finish the floor. More anthill clay and cow manure were mixed together and applied on top of this. A thin coating of cow dung and water was used to complete it. According to research, dried cow dung is a useful disinfectant that emits a distinct odor.

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