The Government of Sri Lanka is to commence the construction of an international shipping port in the Karagan Lewaya – coastal lagoon, immediately adjacent to the southern city of Hambantota. In response to the port development, this project, Urban Piers, is situated in the interface between the city and the port harbour. It is opportunistic by nature, taking advantage of the port infrastructure development. The project establishes an overlap between city and port called the urban apron, which is a zone of experimentation in port urbanisation. Urban Piers project explores the potential relationship between a contemporary city and port which share a waterfront.
In contrast to the mono function of the traditional container port, a mixed use waterfront, the urban/port interface has the potential to serve a diverse range of programmes and account to environmental, social and economic concerns. Through material and ground organisation the proposed urban/port landscape is configured into a series of earthen piers. The piers are differentiated in profiles and skin conditions, from hard concrete piles to soft vegetated mangrove slopes. It is the modulation between hard and soft material/landscape throughout the zone which differentiates the edge condition. The variation in edge condition develops variation in potential programmes. Furthermore the project takes advantage of one of the by-products of port construction, which is earth from dredging operations. The earthen piers provide a local use for the material dredged to develop the harbor basin. Overall, the proposed landscape on the southern side of the port harbor is juxtaposed against the government’s shipping port on the northern edge of the harbour, as an alternative treatment of a working waterfront. The proposed landscape or urban apron, addresses both the needs of the existing urban areas, for a mixed use waterfront and ecological concerns on the foreshore. The primary ecological concerns addressed throughout the proposal are flood mitigation, which is critical to developing a waterfront immediately adjacent to existing urban fabric and the sustenance of an intertidal zone, which is vital for promoting biodiversity along the waterfront.