U. N. Gunasekera

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U.N. Gunasekera
Nationality Sri Lankan
Occupation Engineer
Engineering career
Institutions Institution of Structural Engineers
Projects Ceylon Inter-Continental,
Cinnamon Grand

U.N. Gunasekera (1922–2008), was a Sri Lankan civil engineer. A construction magnate, he is considered "one of the most prolific civil engineers of the 20th century in Sri Lanka". He revolutionized engineering in Sri Lanka through his construction of high-rise buildings, including Sri Lanka's first five-star hotel (the Ceylon Inter-Continental) and its largest five-star hotel (the Cinnamon Grand), among various other projects.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Educated at Royal College, Colombo, he played for the rugby team, winning the coveted Bradby shield. He was also a member of the cricket and athletics teams. He also played for the Sri Lanka Public Schools rugby team and was known to be one of the best young rugby players of that era. He held the All-Island Public Schools record for the 220-yard hurdles.

Having completed the University of Cambridge Higher Diploma, he graduated from the University of London with a degree in Engineering and qualifying as a Chartered Engineer.

Civil engineering[edit]

Gunasekera developed a large construction business that captured a large portion of the market share. He was the first Sri Lankan engineer to build high-rise buildings. By initiating the construction of high rise buildings in Sri Lanka, he played a role in the economic and social development of Sri Lanka. He became a household name in the late 70s and was known to be one of the richest men of the 80s and early 90s in Sri Lanka, and one of its first billionaires. In 1995, he was the only pre-qualified Sri Lankan engineer to bid for the 2.6 billion Marriott renovation of the Galle Face Hotel. He was named one of the five billionaires of Sri Lanka in 1998, prior to his retirement.

In addition to his construction ventures owned other commercial enterprises, such as the Glass House Health Center and Diagnostic Laboratory, a printing press, and a food manufacturing company. He was a prominent real estate mogul, having invested in a famed billion-rupee multi-acre property in Sri Lanka's capital. He developed many influential friendships, including with Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Ranasinghe Premadasa.

  • Bank headquarters
    • Hatton National Bank
  • Hotels
    • Ceylon Inter-Continental
    • Lanka Oberoi aka Cinnamon Grand, including all 3 stages and 600 rooms
    • Habarana Lodge and Mount Lavinia Hotel Extension
  • Political party headquarters
    • SLFP
    • UNP
  • Places of worship
    • Cathedral of Christ the Living Savior
  • Shopping malls
    • Welikada Plaza
    • YMBA
  • Apartment complexes
    • Police
  • Office complexes
    • People's Park Complex
  • Auditoriums
    • Bishop's College Auditorium
  • Office buildings
    • Hemas
  • Headquarters for the Armed Forces
    • National Armed Reserve
    • Air Force
    • National Intelligence Bureau
  • Factory buildings
    • Ceylon Glass Company
  • Academic headquarters
    • Institution of Engineers
    • Institute of Chartered Accountants
    • Institute of Business Management
  • University buildings
    • Science Faculty, University of Colombo
    • Arts Faculty, University of Colombo
  • Warehouses
    • Aitken Spence
    • Ferntea
  • Houses
    • Sirimavo Bandaranaike's


He was elected Fellow and President of the Institute of Engineers, Sri Lanka for five consecutive years, later serving as the chairman of its Board of Trustees. In 2006, he was awarded membership of the Institution of Structural Engineers and life membership of the National Construction Association (whose presidency he declined), in recognition of his professional excellence. He also received an award for 50 years of construction activity from the World Institute of Engineers.

He was also the President of Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club, Vice-President of the Sinhalese Sports Club and Vice-President of the Royal College Union.

Personal life[edit]

He is the grandson of Gate Mudaliyar Abraham Mendis Gunasekera Wijaya Sri Wardana, a leading literary figure and the founder of the Sinhala-English Dictionary, and the great-grandson of Mudaliyar Bastian Mendis Gunasekera. His mother Mrs. H. M. Gunasekera, CBE was a philanthropist who worked with Senator Lady Evadne De Silva, started the Gamini Matha Home For Elders in 1938. She also formed the Mrs. H.M. Gunasekera Trust, which mass prints Buddhist books for free distribution and constructed the Sambodhi Vihara in Colombo 7. His grandmother constructed a temple, the Abeysingharamaya, which he expanded and maintained.

U. N. Gunasekera married Sitade Silva, daughter of Sir Ernest de Silva and Lady Evadne De Silva. They had three children, Srimani who became a Doctor, son Dhammika, who became an engineer and younger daughter, Sushila, was a prominent tennis player in the early 1970s before attending university to study architecture.[1]

Gunasekera is a strong Buddhist and one of the largest contributors to charities in Sri Lanka. He constructed the Sambodhi Vihara in Colombo.


External links[edit]