Minnette de Silva and A Modern Architecture of the Past

Thu 2 Feb - Thu 2 Feb' 23

Minnette de Silva and A Modern Architecture of the Past
A Talk by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi

Date: Thursday, 2nd February, 2023
Time: 6:30 PM
Venue: Level 2 of Bengal Institute, 45 Kamal Ataturk Avenue, Banani, Dhaka 1213.


Minnette de Silva (1918-1998) was one of the first women in the world to establish an architectural practice as sole principal, in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in 1947. Representing a remarkable output, De Silva’s career spanned a tumultuous political transition into Independence in South Asia and the postcolonial armed conflicts and socioeconomic shifts of the second half of the twentieth century in Sri Lanka. Her practice in Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong, and Europe was characterized by a sensitivity toward the relation between landscape and architectural design, the integration of hand-fabricated elements into modern buildings, and an orientation toward social life and community-based aspects of constructing environments. In spite of a prolific and engaged critical practice in design and planning, research and writing, and pedagogy, De Silva’s work and legacy of reception remain curiously unsupported within existing discourse. 

The talk by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi will help to contextualize this simultaneous presence and absence. The talk is drawn from Siddiqi’s article “Crafting the Archive: Minnette De Silva, Architecture, and History” and research for the forthcoming book, Minnette de Silva and A Modern Architecture of the Past.

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi is an Assistant Professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, who specializes in histories of architecture, modernity, and migration, heritage politics, and feminist and colonial practices. Her scholarship aims to foreground histories of marginalized people and figures and promote practices of collaboration and support, especially concerning the lives and narratives of communities that have been systematically excluded or silenced. Her forthcoming book Minnette de Silva and a Modern Architecture of the Past engages the intellectual and heritage work of one of the first women in the world to establish a professional architectural practice and an important cultural figure in the history of Ceylon/Sri Lanka.

You can find here an article on Minnette de Silva by Prof. Siddiqi, published in The Journal of Architecture.