Oculus Wind Power Park

This energy-efficient staff lodging is situated within the Jaffna Wind Power Park. It is part of an axis/spine of 16 wind power plants that begins with the staff/guest quarters at the entrance and culminates in the office building at the end. The wind power park is cultivated as a seasonal lagoon landscape that floods during three months of the year, with a distinctive ecosystem that attracts a variety of birds. It was a simple plan with a low budget that was designed without harming the surrounding vegetation.

The building operates completely on clean energy, while minimising its use of energy through natural ventilation and light. Insulation and glazing moderate the temperature within the building, especially considering the dry zone environment in which it exists. Thus, the structure represents a new and timely approach to construction in Sri Lanka, both in design and concept.

Located close to the Jaffna lagoon, the camouflaged building blends into the mudflat landscape. The footprint has been deliberately kept small. The entire ground floor living and dining space is a pavilion that opens out to a temporal landscape that changes with the seasons. It is a scrubland during the dry season, becomes a pre-monsoonal windswept landscape and is then filled with seasonal pools of water during the monsoon season.

The guest quarters were designed for visiting engineers and staff members. The ground floor consists of an open living area, dining area, kitchen, caretaker’s quarters and shallow pond with a sculptural spiral staircase leading to the upper floor. The staircase has a wind turbine as a backdrop, with an ossified look to blend into the scrubland mudflat environment.

The entire ground floor living and dining areas offer the occupants a perception of being closely connected with the surrounding sensitive lagoon environment. The grassland landscape has been brought close to the building, which was lifted 2 feet off the ground. The ceiling is 16 feet high, creating a volume that adds to the spatial experience of a wild open landscape integrated into the building.

The shallow pond at the core of the building has varying water depths and acts as the eye of the oculus. It is a constant presence against a backdrop of lush vegetation. It also catches the reflection of the windmills along with the landscape of lagoons, mudflats and windswept grasslands. The four corners are sliced through with the pond in the centre offering the notion of an axis that opens out.

The upper floor consists of a living area, two rooms for staff and two rooms for guests. The bedrooms remain projected, with smaller openings. Each bedroom offers a view of the surrounding landscape and lagoon, with natural light and ventilation that creates a light, airy space. Each room comes with an attached bathroom, which has an open to sky courtyard for natural ventilation. The timber screens offer filtered light. Additionally, inner glazed screens offer an option of being hidden into the walls at the corners, providing uninhibited views of the landscape. The timber screens further act as an additional layer of heat protection for the inner glazed screens. There is also an option to mechanically condition the space in future if necessary. Supported by steel props, the slender roof appears to be floating, allowing for movement of air.

Locally sourced materials were used and building tectonics were incorporated to keep within the small budget, minimising destruction to the environment and providing microclimatic comfort in the hot climate.

A simple material and muted colour palette enabled the building to camouflage and blend into the environment. The material palette consisted of polished cement floors, rough cement walls, timber screens and low-E glass. Reclaimed pieces of furniture and old benches were used. The interiors of the bedrooms were painted whiteto provide a comfortable finish.

Project Name: Oculus Wind Power Park
Location: Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Completion Date: August 2016
Site Area: 38,750 square feet
Gross Floor Area: 4,715 square feet
Number of Rooms: 2
Building Height: 27 feet 6 inches
Client/Owner: WindForce (Pvt) Ltd
Architecture Firm: Palinda Kannangara Architects
Principal Architect: Palinda Kannangara
Civil & Structural Engineer: Siril Sahabandu
Main Contractor: D and S Constructions
Images: Palinda Kannangara Architects