Nature and Buddhist Architecture: Sri Lanka

Nature and Buddhist Architecture: Sri Lanka


Department of Architecture, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

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This paper examines ‘nature’ in the form of natural landscape, focusing on Sri Lankan landscape. Natural landscape in this study is discussed as physical features, physical geography and topography of the earth surface – topos. These physical features exist in variety of ways; mountains, rocks, stones and boulders, hillocks, terrains, valleys, water in many ways and trees and vegetation. Sri Lankan natural landscape consists of distinctive and varied physical features –topos – and many of these have been converted to Buddhist architecture: natural landscape represents significant role in these places. This paper examines how Sri Lankan natural landscape influences Buddhist performances, shaping landscape and architecture. It examines literature in philosophy, Buddhist philosophy and phenomenol- ogy of landscape and place. It analyses the relationship of patterns of settlements with the physical features and geography of its location, focusing on Buddhist performances. It is examined that these topos directs divine and mundane dimensions. The paper argues that Sri Lankan landscape provides unique locations for Buddhist divine understanding, which is ordinary in everyday life experiences and place concepts. It is revealed that these places as specific examples of compositions of Buddhist under- standing with natural landscape and divine experience of natural landscape with mythical landscape in a variety of ways, resulting natural–cultural–architectural places bounded by cultural performances. These kinds of place understanding reflect ontological relationships developed between people, nature and their designs (settlements) rather than as traditional or modern.


buddhist performance, buddhist architecture, chora, natural landscape, Sri Lanka, sense of

place, topos.


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