Buildings such as the All Saints Anglican Church built in 1871, the Buddhist Temple which was the site of the old Portuguese Catholic church, the Clock Tower built in 1882, the Galle light house and Meera Mosque built in 1904 are buildings that are important landmarks but do not date as back.
Some of the street names still retain the original colonial era names such as Moorish Pedlar Street or ‘Moorse Kramerstraat’, Lighthouse Street or ‘Zeeburgstraat’, Leyn Baan Street or ‘Lehenbahnstraat’, Hospital Street where the Old Dutch Hospital, the House of Surgeon and the Medical Gardens were, Old Rope-walk Street where coir rope workshop once stood, Parawa Street, Cando Street and the Church street.
Today the cobblestoned pathways are flanked by many antique shops, heritage houses, grand hotels, restaurants, boutique shops, craft shops and many pleasant street side cafés offering wide array of services for the tourist.
Figure 06: Streetscapes within the Galle Fort
Figure 07: Map of Galle fort showing the grid like network of streets (left) and Aerial view of the Galle fort in present state (right)
The Fort’s ‘TOMMOROW’
Compared to historic buildings situated among other buildings in a city, Galle fort is unique since it is a separate entity from the rest of the city. This uniqueness contributes vastly to the preservation of the history and the culture within the fort.
Despite the numerous attempts, it is to be noted that Galle Fort can only be restored to a certain degree and that complete restoration is not feasible. This is mainly due to the fact that people currently live here and thus, the city and its needs are ever growing. Which means, in short that this ‘settlement’ is constantly evolving and not ‘frozen’ in time. Such cities present limitations to restoration. For example, houses inside the Fort, which are already somewhat restricted in terms of space, have to remain as homes to the families living within. Although remodeling and extensions to these homes can be done within a restricted framework, as long as the outward appearance are kept intact, acquiring accessories such as TV antennas, satellite dishes etc. for TV cannot be restricted.
Furthermore, restoration is also costly. Since buildings cannot be preserved inside a glass box for story telling of its past glory, they are invariably exposed to weathering and outside elements, and the maintenance and management of the property further adds on making the project immensely costly. The only revenue it can generate is through tourism, which is in most cases not be sufficient for the upkeep of the building. Ultimately the building becomes under maintained and gradually fall in to deterioration.
Thus, the method that is perhaps most feasible is ‘Conservation’ through adaptive reuse of structures for new ventures which generate revenue and cater to the ever increasing modern needs of society. The conversion of the historic building into profitable ventures with strict specified instructions for preservation of the historic value, ensure the upkeep of the building in very good condition for a very long period of time, since the revenue directly depends on the well maintenance of the building.
This, however, poses the question, ‘For how long?’ Is the Galle Fort that stood then standing today?. Will what stands today be still standing a hundred/ two hundred years down the line?
These questions remain looming as the modern cities/settlements and the needs of people continue to grow, as historic buildings situated among other buildings face a great threat of demolition due to the occupation of very valuable land otherwise could be used for profitable ventures.
Therefore the decision between the preservation of heritage assets or social development becomes a difficult question to answer.