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Minnette de Silva

Forgotten Masters


Monday 11 March 2019
6.30 — 8pm

This event has now ended

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Minnette de Silva, Flats in Gregory's Road, Colombo, 1957


Celebrate International Women’s Day with a discussion on Minnette de Silva whose contribution to modernist architecture is often overlooked.

Minnette de Silva was one of the world’s most famous architects. She was Sri Lanka’s first modernist architect and the first Asian woman to become an Associate of the RIBA. Yet her buildings are rarely celebrated, while scholarship and awareness of her work remains scarce.

Educated at the Architectural Association in London, De Silva worked with Le Corbusier among others. Her buildings often feature open courtyards and verandas and are distinctly modernist in their approach. She celebrates traditional craftsmanship in her work and creates harmony with the landscape.

De Silva’s buildings range from private houses to larger scale housing developments. Her participatory approach – consulting extensively with future homeowners – was revolutionary for its time. She also experimented widely and fused European modernism with Sri Lankan regional styles. Significantly, she paved the way for other prominent Sri Lankan modernist architects, including Geoffrey Bawa.

In this discussion, organised in association with Docomomo, we will invite an architect, Anupama Kundoo, and historian, Senaka Weeraman, to reflect on Minnette de Silva’s work and evaluate her role in Sri Lankan modernist architecture. They will also consider the wider implications of excluding certain architects from the dominant narratives around modernism and how to counteract this exclusion.


Anupama Kundoo, is an architect who founded her practice in 1990. She graduated from the Sir JJ College of Architecture at the University of Mumbai before receiving her PhD from TU Berlin in 2008. Her research projects and teaching have included work at the Architectural Association in London and Parsons New School of Design in New York amongst others. She is currently a professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam.

Senaka Weeraman graduated from the Bartlett at UCL and completed a Masters in Urbanism in UPC Barcelona. He is a Young Researcher at the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris where he is researching the letters of Minnette de Silva. He is currently working on social housing architectural projects as well as working with Selva Sandrapagas on some projects in Sri Lanka.

Gillian Darley (chair) is an author and broadcaster and a widely published writer on architecture and landscape. She is currently President of the Twentieth Century Society. Her new book, ‘Excellent Essex’, will be published in September.

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

Monday 11 March 2019

6.30 — 8pm

The Benjamin West Lecture Theatre, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

£15, £9