Cinnamon Gardens

Arcade Independence Square

The Arcade Independence Square is a shopping complex in the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka, housed in a group of renovated buildings including the former Jawatta Lunatic Asylum (later known as the Auditor General’s building) and the former Western Provincial Council Building. It was built as a part of the Independence Square Redevelopment programme initiated by the Sri Lankan Government.

Intricate landscaping of the area has brought lavishness to the green lawns which extends to the white buildings, and flowers are plentiful with the occasional tree here and there. One centre of attraction is a huge sculpture of lions resting, three handsome maned ones and two lionesses basking in the sunshine. These rock sculptures are done in a contemporary artistic design.

At the other end of the complex is a large pond scattered with fish, with a fountain peeking out at one end. It’s covered in a transparent walkway that is suspended over the water and makes for a delightful experience especially for children.  The outdoor seating area is perfect, partly in the shade and partly shining in the glorious sun. The seating consists of very old-fashioned white garden chairs on one patio and modern seats near the food court. It’s easy to see that this will become a thriving, vibrant spot in Colombo, similarly to how well Racecourse has done.


History of the Arcade Independence Square

The building was constructed in 1889 at a cost of Rs 450,000 to serve as the Jawatta Lunatic Asylum (also called the Cinnamon Gardens Asylum) In 1875, the then Governor, Sir William Gregory based on the recommendations of the Principal Civil Medical Officer, Dr. W R Kynsey, decided to build a new aylum to replace the existing facility at Borella. Issues over the location and design meant that construction did not commence until 1879, following the intervention of the new Governor, Sir James Longdon. Even then further construction of the building was delayed until 1882. The building consisted of an entrance block, two patient wings (accommodating 400 patients) connected to the central administration and a boundary wall. Longdon defended the cost of the facility stating at the time, “The asylum is a series of one-storey buildings of the plainest type. The walls are of brick plastered, because of the climate plastering is found requisite for the preservation of buildings. There is no expensive ornamentation, or indeed any ornament at all, unless a short ungraceful and inexpensive tower over the entrance designed for the clock can be called an ornament. The enclosing walls are of ordinary cabook, such as is universally used for garden walls in Colombo.”The Jawatta Asylum suffered from overcrowding within years of completion, housing over 500 patients. In 1917 a new larger facility was constructed at Angoda, with all the patients being transferred from Jawatta by 1926.

The building subsequently housed the newly established University College. The building complex was then occupied by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), the Public Administration Department, Auditor General’s Department and later the Government Analyst’s Department.

“(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)”