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Academic. Masters Thesis . Hypothetical . 2016


Roven Rebeira

This project was conceived as the submission for my Masters in Architecture (M.Arch) in the year 2016. This was the final year of a 7 year long work - study architectural degree course. Of course after this many years it is understandable that one would go crazy and try to design a building for an animal.


Jokes aside, I was passionate (still am) about a niche typology of architecture known as 'animal architecture'. I was honestly satiated with project after project of museums, art centers and shopping malls that architectural courses consider to be the 'most complex projects worthy of a thesis'. As a absolute rebel student I was determined to prove them, and this notion, wrong. I did not get much support in pursuing this project - but this was all I wanted to do. I treated this project as a quest to find an answer to the following question:

''Can Architecture accommodate any living species other than humans''


My efforts were rewarded with a RIBA Silver Medal Commendation for this project. What follows is a snapshot of an year's worth of research and effort.


This project aims at blurring the boundaries created by human cities. It attempts to soften the edges where cities meet animal habitats and create a symbiotic relationship between different species, namely the Human and the Elephant. This is done through the design of a deploy-able system on the edge of habitats which is adaptable as a construction method for elephant resistant human dwellings, non-harmful deterrent mechanisms and symbiotic spaces catering to both species.

I explore how architecture can create symbiotic environments for both humans and wildlife at the sensitive borderland areas where cities meet animal habits. The centre for Ethno-Elephantology, focuses on the co-existence of elephants and humans at the Udawalawe Nature Reserve in the South Sri Lanka.

‘The Fundamental exploration in this project was to deconstruct the notion that architecture is simply a vehicle to address a series of needs of the “human animal”. ‘Can Architecture in fact respond to the needs of other animal species?’

By using research on elephant behavior, biology, habitats and social structuring I have informed the design of the research centre and surrounding landscape, with particular attention on finding an alternative to the electric fence as a way of controlling the human-animal habitat interface.

Construction of the building is accompanied by an awareness programme to show local people, who currently feel threatened by elephants, how they could benefit economically by this new approach. This would use architecture as a means to limit damage caused by elephants to farmlands and homes.

Buildings are created using earth bag layered construction with bamboo as the roof and support structure. A domed form was chosen because it distributes any lateral or shear the force equally and so performs better if attacked by an elephant. It also references the temples and granaries of traditional Sinhalese culture, rooting it in the local community's memory as a recognizable system of construction and architectural form.

A new 'Model village' for researches and other visitors is proposed between the centre itself and the nearby fishing community which can help familiarize the community with the centre and also linking them to the daily functions of the centre and generating different income streams for them to uplift and strengthen their economic status.

Other macro scale strategies include providing corridors for elephant migration, edged with a ‘living’ fences of Durian, Palmyra, and other natural deterrent crops and cultivation that create a more humane and live-able  ecosystem for both the human and elephant species.

A condensed version of nature reserve, with similar landscape conditions, is provided for rehabilitating orphaned elephants before their return to the wild.


Project Gallery EthnoEle