Shaping Time and Culture in the Façade of Architecture – Sidath De Fonseka and Saradha Fernando, Directors of SAT Architects (Private) Limited

Sidath De Fonseka and Saradha Fernando, the remarkable Directors of SAT Architects (Private) Limited, design sophisticated spaces to persuade the way individuals carry out their way of life.

Hailing from the town of Wattala, Sidath De Fonseka spent his formative years as a proud alumnus of St.Peter’s College. During his final year of high school awaiting his results, he enrolled at the City School of Architecture to progress in his tertiary education. Despite having chosen Math for his Senior Year, he has always been enthralled and galvanized by various genres of art throughout his school days. 

Based on the institution’s ethos of “work while you learn,” Sidath performed as a full-time employee under a Chartered Architect during his reading at CSA, and eventually graduated in 2017 as a Chartered Architect himself, establishing SAT Architects. “I wanted to learn different ways of how art could inspire our boring, day-to-day lives, and eventually, that’s how I developed my love for architecture. Architecture for me is about creating spaces for an inspired living”, he stated. 

When asked how he chooses which projects are a suitable fit for him, Sidath says he desires more challenging projects where he has to come up with an innovative solution to meet the client’s needs. This is because, in some cases, it is difficult to meet all of a client’s requests within the constraints of the available site/budget. However, he believes that his and Saradha’s primary responsibility is to come up with a practical and notional solution to such problems. As a result, people entrust them with the task of turning their dreams into reality, which is not something that just anybody can achieve. This, according to Sidath, is why they have been able to maintain a loyal clientele throughout the years.

Sidath responds that they keep a minimalistic approach to their designs when asked about the characteristics that distinguish their style and what motivates their design selections, stating “I believe in the theory “Form follows function”. I believe the most important thing is being able to design a functional building that could adapt to changes over a certain period of time. Meaning, it does not matter how beautiful the building is if it fails to cater to the function, and I believe that’s where we would also fail as designers.” 

As a result, he prioritizes the function, and just a few factors are taken into account in this regard. Furthermore, he states that they conduct a background check on the customer, as well as existing site characteristics, before beginning to design a circulation pattern that meets the client’s needs, whether they are residential, commercial, or otherwise. Everything, including the form, falls into place as a result.

Sidath, when asked about the problems that he’s faced in this industry, says that architecture is a complex field for a variety of reasons. For context, he explains that clients have come in with biased assumptions formed by nonprofessionals in the industry or unfavorable online/social media articles. Given that his primary goal is to get the function right, he finds it challenging to persuade customers why certain things would not work for certain requirements when they are already sold on otherwise superficial notions or nice imagery.

This isn’t to imply that Sidath and Saradha don’t pay attention to what clients have to say. They consider everything and then return to their place to begin the plan, starting with the essentials and working around what is already there. Sidath expresses his conviction that nothing can work unless the basis is firm, whether it’s a refurbishment or new construction. Even when he and Saradha are given half-finished work, they always begin with the essentials rather than where things were left off from a previous party, allowing the rest of the process to flow naturally. Thus, by keeping their clients in the loop and assisting them in making their goal a phenomenon in a feasible way, they aim to bridge the gap between expectations and reality in their clients’ thoughts.

Saradha Fernando, a native of Moratuwa, is a proud product of the Convent of Our Lady of Victories and a City School of Architecture graduate. Saradha says her adventure with S A T Architects (Pvt) Ltd began after her charter was completed in 2018. She was enrolled in an Interior Design course at the time when she decided to join CSA. During this training, she was able to obtain some architectural knowledge and was also supported by her beloved father. She was, however, a math student who has always been fascinated with solving equations, puzzles, Sudoku, and other such games. She describes it as both tough and enjoyable, similar to architecture, in which one must think strategically and see patterns to arrive at a solution that meets the requirements. 

When asked what plans she has for SAT Architects in the future, Saradha says that she and Sidath are looking forward to expanding their approach to producing more sustainable structures as a firm. This is because, although living in a tropical nation, they rarely recognize, even as architects, that there are a plethora of options to design something timeless while respecting the environment in which they live, stating “I believe in minimalistic architecture, the concept less is more. Even the world is moving towards sustainability and therefore, I think this could create more opportunities for us to grow as a company and solidify our position in the field of architecture by simply being able to provide our services to any aspect of the society even to “non-privileged” as we sometimes tend to categorize.”

Saradha, when asked about her project-management technique, says that managing a project is the most important component, highlighting the value of teamwork. She goes on to state that a project’s success rate is solely determined by how well the project’s time, cost, and quality parameters are managed. She considers maintaining respect for everyone’s ideas in the project team, regardless of their position. While the project architect is typically regarded as the team leader, she believes the inadequate thing that could happen to a project is the team leader acting like a “know it all” or with a “my way or the highway” attitude. She explains that when she manages a project, everyone is given an equal opportunity to share their thoughts because of this factor. This method has allowed her to gain a great deal of knowledge in the process. She also acclaims that there have been times when they have been able to come up with extremely fantastic answers to particular on-site circumstances simply by putting all of their heads together, which she considers being a relatively simple way to keep time, money, and quality in check. 

When asked of an example of a mistake she’s made on a project, Saradha recounts one episode on a project that she regrets to this day, where she depended on a subcontractor to execute a certain amount of building work. Due to time constraints, this subcontractor was presented by the client and was unable to pre-qualify their work. She goes on to say that everything was well until the building was handed over and the complete payment was made, but that once the building began to function, there were leaks in this particular section that was difficult to fix.

The client and she, on the other hand, had a great working relationship and eventually came up with an alternative solution, but the client had to compensate for the extra labor. To summarize, she goes on to say that it’s tough to trust people in this field since they might accomplish one thing flawlessly and then botch up the next in inconceivable ways. Taking this into mind, she must pay the same amount of attention and consideration to minor projects as they do to larger ones, regardless of the constraints they may be facing at the time. Having said that, both Sidath and Saradha are devoted to excelling in architecture and constructing demanding spaces.

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