Colombo’s rapid growth has taken everyone by surprise. The once languid city that was content with its thé kades and terrible roads is now on the cusp of being a modern metropolis. Nowhere is this more visible than in Colombo’s fast-changing skyline. Where once growth was always along the ground, now, the veteran World Trade Center and Bank of Ceylon towers are being overshadowed by younger and taller upstarts from all over the city.

However, there is a shadow to this sheen. Older buildings that have witnessed years, decades, and  even centuries of history, remain derelict. In other cases, they are razed to make way for shiny new towers that remain unaffordable for lower income communities.

With new restaurants, coffee shops, and high street stores in every neighbourhood, there is no question that Colombo is going cosmopolitan. The question is whether these castles in the clouds will leave the everyday man behind.

Altair is Colombo’s newest, 68-storey skyscraper. It is among the tallest high-rises in the city, towering over most structures, both old and more recent.

Colombo’s highrises tower over the greenery in the background, with the Lotus Tower in the foreground. The kovil and the people of the floating market are left in its shadow.

Will what’s left of Colombo’s green cover be swallowed up by the concrete jungle?

The Mandarina Hotel is overshadowed by Platinum One, the glass monolith rising behind it.

The Chand is one of Colombo’s oldest sports stores. Behind it, the AVIC Astoria promises to dominate the skyline.

The old and the new, juxtaposed in Colpetty.

Unknown construction on St. Anthony’s Mawatha.

We might not be able to afford a place at the Destiny Regency & Mall coming up beside the Slave Island railway station, but we can get a cool thambili and watch the building develop with each passing day.

The historic Castle Hotel was recently torn down. It will be replaced by a building that retains the old façade, but not a lot else.

The Waterfront project by Cinnamon Life and JKH took a gamble on casinos, but with new legislation barring that revenue, the profitability of the project is now as certain as a roll of the dice.

The old titans, Bank of Ceylon and World Trade Centre look on, as the new lords of the city, Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo and One Galle Face – The Residences, rise taller every day.

In Colombo, capitalism, culture, and crowds mix on an ongoing basis. Here, the Galle Face One and Shangri-La towers form the backdrop for the Regal Temple and the afternoon traffic.

Editor’s note: This article previously identified two of the buildings as Shangri-La and ITC Colombo; it has now been corrected to Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo and Galle Face One – The Residences. We apologise for the error.

Featured image: The Galle Face Hotel, the oldest hotel east of the Suez, dwarfed by the glass-and-steel apartments and upcoming hotels on Galle Road.

Text by Dilina Amaruwan