For over a century, Galle Face has been Colombo’s prestigious ocean front green and the city’s ceremonial centre. Sitting majestically between the ocean, bustling metropolis and lake, this narrow, picturesque stretch of prime land is being transformed into a vibrant new cosmopolitan area.
Today, with luxury property after luxury property appearing in this central zone (epitomized by the gargantuan feat of engineering at Colombo Port City), Galle Face is set to become the beating heart of one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Indeed, an ambitious city such as Colombo demands equally ambitious investment and development to truly set it apart on a global scale.
This ambition is about to be manifested by the installation of the remarkable AHASA ONE Sky Bridge. It is certainly the most distinctive and striking feature of the iconic Sapphire Residences and ITC One hotel complex, which dominates the centre of the Galle Face oceanfront and is destined to become a major landmark for the city.
Scheduled for completion in 2021, this iconic development comprises the impressive c.224-metre residential tower, which sits alongside the c.140-metre high hotel. These two vertical structures will be connected c.100 metres in the air at the 19th to 21st levels by the AHASA ONE Sky Bridge.
The first of its kind in South Asia, AHASA ONE will have not one but two infinity pools and a sun deck on top; inside the structure will be a luxurious jazz lounge and bar, which will surely become one of Colombo’s social ‘hotspots’. The dual-panoramic views from this awe-inspiring structure will be some of the most breathtaking in the city, revealing the Indian Ocean, Beira Lake and the city lights below in all their glory.
Inevitably such a unique design has presented some interesting and unique challenges. Suspended c.100 meters in the air and weighing a staggering c.3,000 tonnes when completed, this c.55-meter-long elevated pathway is unquestionably an engineering marvel, which demanded the world’s best minds to turn it into reality. As such, developers WelcomHotels Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. sought the expertise and experience of world-leading construction company L&T.
“The Skybridge is one of the most unique structures that we have ever built, not least as it requires extensive full-scale load testing before final assembly on site,” explains L&T Sri Lanka Head Mr. Natarajan Namachivayam. “This is a unique challenge that, to our knowledge, has no precedent of this nature and complexity anywhere in the world. The balanced double infinity Skypools and the suspended Sky Lounge below the pool are features which are unique to this project,” he observes. “The AHASA ONE structure is the result of a 2-year long collaborative effort between the design, procurement, fabrication and erection teams. As far as construction is concerned, highly specialized synchronized lifting systems and fabrication methods, together with a unique ‘top down’ assembly process in the suspended condition, have been employed.”
In order to create such a landmark building as the region’s most exclusive, sustainable complex, leading companies around the world covering architecture, engineering, interior design, security, landscaping, marketing and sales were approached, from which a world-class team of global experts was assembled. This team includes the world’s most revered living designer Philippe Starck (Paris) and YOO (London), Gensler (San Francisco), Control Risks (London), Thornton Tomasetti (New York), L&T (India/Sri Lanka), Sterling (India), Design Wilkes (Malaysia), Meinhardt Façade (India), Burega Farnell (Singapore) and Sotheby’s International Realty (global sales). This is underpinned by the exceptional 5* hospitality services that will be delivered by India’s ITC Hotels to residents, guests and visitors to Sapphire Residences and ITC One hotel.
Closer to home, a leading consultant on this iconic development is the renowned and celebrated Sri Lankan architect Deshamanya Surath Wickramasinghe, who has been at the forefront of this project since its inception. In 2001, Mr Wickramasinghe was elected Founding President of The Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka and, such has been his dedication to uplifting the architecture and construction industry in Sri Lanka, he was bestowed the title of “Deshamanya” (Pride of the Nation) by the then President Maithripala Sirisena in 2019 for his contribution and dedication to architecture in the country. Additionally, in recognition of his achievements in Architecture and Planning, the University of Westminster in London conferred a Doctorate DLitt in 2012.
Surath Wickramasinghe agrees that the most significant aspect of the Galle Face development is the Ahasa One Sky Bridge. Describing it as ‘architecturally iconic’, he believes the exterior glass facade enabling spectacular panoramic views will generate an ambience that is unique to Sri Lanka and to South Asia. “This exceptional Sky Bridge will be a distinctive landmark for the City of Colombo, a symbolic catalyst to convey to the world the country’s resurgent economic and cultural growth. I hope that it will also inspire our own architects and designers to push the boundaries of creativity in transforming Colombo’s skyline.”
Commenting on the installation of the Sky Bridge this week, Mr Wickramasinghe explains that connecting the two towers at a height of c.100 metres above the ground with a vast structure that weighs around c.3,000 tonnes, is both a challenging and remarkable achievement. “This state-of-the-art bridge has been designed with meticulous engineering expertise so as to be absolutely precise during installation, to avoid an error of even a few millimetres,” he adds.
Following a global trend at the uber-luxury end of the market for large lateral apartments, the top 2 floors of the residential tower will feature one of South Asia’s largest penthouses with some of the most spectacular views in the city, making Sapphire Residences the #1 address in the city. The enormous apartments – uniquely termed ‘Sky Mansions’ – and the residents’ facilities will set new standards in South Asia. All aspects of the residences, including over 40,000 sq ft of sporting and social amenities, have been carefully designed to appeal to an elite group of like-minded individuals who enjoy to the finest things in life. “The concept is based on the new breed of international private members’ clubs that provide a secure, integrated place for relaxing, working, playing and socializing, with a focus on enhancing the members’ experiences and wellbeing,” explains Arun Pathak, Managing Director of WelcomHotels Lanka, adding that every Sky Mansion also comes with a state-of-the-art home automation solution that operates with hands-free voice control and mobile devices, putting residents in control of their environment and ensuring peace of mind. “This offers total convenience, comfort and security at the tip of one’s tongue – or fingertips!”
It isn’t only about luxury; achieving sustainability is the new nirvana and is a core value for the developers. “‘Luxury with sustainability’ is engrained in our DNA and some very clever features have been incorporated here,” explains Mr. Pathak. “With such proven deep-rooted commitment to ecological and sustainable living, WelcomHotels Lanka is dedicated to delivering the finest – and greenest – residential and hotel complex in Colombo.” To back this up, he points out that Sapphire Residences has already achieved the prestigious and globally respected pre-certification rating for LEED® BD+C (Core and Shell Development) at the highest Platinum level, ensuring the lowest environmental impact of any building on this scale in the region.
Above all, Sapphire Residences will be defined by its residents. This extraordinary complex will become home to a select number of privileged individuals who have ascended the pinnacles of success and personal achievement, and who will appreciate the stylish living in the most luxurious and secure homes in Colombo.
Arun Pathak concludes, “Despite the appalling terrorism and the political crisis we have all experienced this year, we are pleased that construction has remained on target and the main structure will soon be complete with the installation of the AHASA ONE Sky Bridge. We remain extremely positive for the future.”