The project focuses on Matara, one of the coastal cities which suffered from the tsunami’s catastrophe. This city is built around the Nilwala River, which divides the city into two parts. While the city traditionally has based its economy on the river, it has also suffered from the threats it poses, both serving as a gateway for tsunami waves to enter the mainland, but also causing massive seasonal floods during the periods of the monsoon. This natural process regularly damages the urban landscape of Matara, hampering its growth and development.

A masterplan strategy to develop an urban park was proposed within the agricultural areas, undeveloped open space and dispersed settlements along the river. The plan did not address the river in its broader scale nor as a systemic principle and considered it from a zoning perspective. The project took this plan as an opportunity to explore a different strategy in response to the complexity of Matara’s urban development and the embedded natural processes of the river. Retention floodplains is a bottom-up scheme which proposes to build a territorial strategy to mediate the seasonal flooding of the Nilwala River with Matara’s urban fabric reconstruction and development. Through the assemblage and performance of SUD (Sustainable Urban Drainage) landscape techniques, the project generates a robust landscape of proliferated ponds and swales to create areas for flow attenuation. These landscape elements negotiate strips of urban park with a new network of road infrastructure and pedestrian paths. They define higher areas for urban consolidation, lower areas for drainage and evacuation corridors along the river and into the city.

Retention floodplains is a diagrammatic response to negotiate the development of local activities for a potential sustainable relocation of Matara’s fishermen. Rainwater harvesting, permaculture and river markets are considered in this new spatial strategy to regenerate the affected livelihood of fishermen after the tsunami.

Eduardo Carranza

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