Standing tall and poised with a dazzling smile, she is an embodiment of grace and sheer elegance; similar to Princess Diana. Yet, a deeper look into this beauty reveals nerves of steel and a strong will power. She was THE artist of our grade; drawing pictures for us, her friends. Her artistic flair superseded the rest as she displayed her talent and love for drawing at every given turn. One simply could not think of her apart from her drawing, it was an all-in-one package and later on it seemed natural that she would opt for art and follow a career that required drawing in some sense.

image_6995af49d9“Music was my first love,” to which I responded incredulously as I could not imagine her in collaboration with music as I along with our batch mates had always seen her as an artist extraordinaire. Some of us who were not gifted in the arts would coax her to complete some of our amateur attempts at drawing. She dabbled in lines, forms and colours but initially it was the cartoon figures of the latest ‘Gummi Bears’ that she impressed us with. Most of our autograph books etc are dotted with Shehla’s beautiful drawings.

Under the tutelage of the famous Latifa Ismael, our budding artist flourished, investing all her energy into art.

Designing with passion 

Her interest in architecture was spawned whilst perusing through various career options she could pursue; which was either to be an art teacher or architect. This purpose was etched in her heart from grade nine onwards and she persisted without looking back. Whilst researching about the scope in this field, she realized that she liked it more and more. It was no mean feat as it required seven years of extensive study. She vowed to pursue her dream, come hell or high water and she did so by pouring through her books to ensure that she passed her ordinary level and advance levels with flying colours. She relentlessly pursued her dream, unperturbed by the numerous obstacles that came her way.

image_eb380dea8fThe entrance exam was a prerequisite to the competition that lay ahead in her field; 4000 candidates were vying for a position in the Moratuwa University which enrolled a mere 60 – 70 students per batch. Nerve-wracking as it was for her, she was elated at being chosen and considered it a miracle as she was the first amongst her family to pursue a higher education. Painstakingly, she reached her goal by following the strenuous architectural course spanning seven years. Step by step she reached the zenith through determination and support of many loved ones.

After a brief hiatus in 2004-2005 in which she gave birth to her first daughter, she obtained her degree. Thereafter, she had spent a few years as an apprentice to obtain her Chartered license.  Her character was honed as in a refiner’s fire during those years of meticulously study and she came out shining as gold. Madame Shehla was armed and ready for the many projects that steadily but surely came her way. Her family and friends were thrilled that she who was immensely passionate about her work would execute her role to perfection.

Her premier project was none other than the complete renovation of her husband’s family home, which he gave her the complete freedom to restore. She who prefers the Geoffrey Bawa style had to incorporate her husband’s liking for the contemporary, ultra- modern choice which she did to the astonishment and admiration of all who visit her home. “Malik merely had three requirements; a four car garage, a swimming pool and a music room, which were added features to our home.” This pilot project offered a learning curve to Shehla, who thought of it as a growing process. Through trial and error, she was able to sharpen her skills and garner much knowledge in her field.

Urban Arc 

image_f4fdee054aSetting up Urban Arc architectural consultants was another significant milestone in her career. Through her company, she offers a range of uni-disciplinary services, whilst creating modern, yet simple architectural solutions according to the client’s complex needs.

She views her clients with an open mind and heart, catching on insinuations, perusing into their psyche, and observing every detail in order catch a glimpse of who they are and what they like as individuals. By doing so, she is able to or challenged to offer them a design which accentuates the uniqueness of their souls. “My first achievement would be the acceptance of the initial design; if they are satisfied with it I feel an accomplishment at having tapped at their inner being,” revealed she.

“I view each project as a baby and it becomes very emotional for me personally as I create it, nurture it and see it to completion,” revealed she with uninhibited emotion. “The design stage is very important and very personal.”

Shehla is a compassionate, sympathetic, and empathetic persona; sought after by many for a shoulder to cry on or for a bone crushing hug. She would always lend an ear and an understanding heart. Therefore, it is inevitable that her designs reflect the beauty of her magnanimous nature and this amazing aura exuded by her permeates all aspects of her work and relationships with her clients who ultimately become an integral part of her life.

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About Rochelle Gunaratne

I believe that everyone has a story to tell and in turn, I love listening to those stories, attempting to paint a picture to my readers with my words. I may not be an artist or painter, but I believe words can create powerful images in ones mind and it is how we share our stories with others.
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