Inspired from Mythological Legends, this Cafe in Sri Lanka Re-Defines Eco-Friendly Architecture

Cafe UFO by RAPA Chartered Architects

The motivation to build a sustainable, eco-friendly design in Ella stemmed from the growth of uncontrolled haphazard buildings that are constructed in the area, visually and physically challenging its background.


There is an acute need for a vernacular touch in the area, since Ella is a tourist-sensitive locality.Visitors to the area prefer views undisturbed by haphazard structures that do not give due consideration to the context, ecology, and purpose.

Picture Courtesy: RAPA Chartered Architects

The design concept is derived from mythological legends that are popular in the area. Ella is known for its connection to the story of Ravana, the mythical king of Sri Lanka who is said to have ruled the land thousands of years ago. As described in folk literature, King Ravana has been in possession of a flying machine known as the ‘Dandu Monara Yanthraya’– ‘Flying peacock machine.’

Picture Courtesy: RAPA Chartered Architects

This machine is said to have been built in the shape of a peacock.The design of Café UFO was inspired from King Ravana’s flying machine as described in folk literature. It acutely preserves the rustic quality of the legend in relation to Ella. The restaurant was named ‘Café UFO,’ relating to the ‘unidentified flying object’ that it was inspired from, while adding a chic modernity to it. The main raw material used in the construction of the space is timber. The timber acquired are from rose gum trees – Eucalyptis grandis – that is grown purposefully and approved for usage by the Forest Department of Sri Lanka. Micro timber (also grown purposefully and approved for usage by the Forest Department) branches are used as rafters and degraded wooden logs have been acquired for furniture. The roof is thatched with two layers of blady grass – Imperata cylindrica – with a tar felt sheet as a waterproof insulation in between. Interior design has also been done with the application of Eco-friendly and reclaimed materials.

Picture Courtesy: RAPA Chartered Architects

Interior partitioning as well as interior wall décor were done using cinnamon sticks, and reed and rush products respectively. Interior decorations and lighting are complemented with metal pots, wheels, tyres, and metal water buckets, all of the materials reclaimed and up-cycled. Owing to the nature of the materials used, the design and architecture of Café UFO is highly sustainable and eco-friendly. The lighting and space achieve a warm ambiance, ideal for a dining placement.

Picture Courtesy: RAPA Chartered Architects

Amber, gold and brown tones are consistent in the structure, adding to the ambiance while not being too harsh on the eye of the diner. The ground floor, first floor and a mezzanine level provide ample space. Each features different arrangement of seating, leaving the visitor with several choices to dine. The construction phase of the project was conscious of the social context and community placement as well. Almost all the raw material has been procured from the area and services such as carpentering, interior detailing and masonry were sourced from the community of Ella itself.


Project: Cafe UFO

Location: Ella, Sri Lanka

Design House: RAPA Chartered Architect


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