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Pieris House

Colombo, Sri Lanka
1 of 10LASWA

The Pieris House was De Silva's first commission in Colombo distinguished by open courtyards and terraces blurring the confines between interiors and exteriors with authentic local details like decorative leaf inlays on balconies and gates. This meda midula would become a hallmark of many of her dwellings and would be refined and experimented upon by subsequent architects, most notably Geoffrey Bawa.

Confronting the very world of elites from which she came herself, De Silva looked to transcend the frivolous whims of the rich. To do so, she turned to the work of local artisans, working side by side to polish ancient practices and perfect avant-garde techniques. For many, entering her worksites is a dream come true. At the same time, she decided to find new, more sustainable construction solutions suitable for all budgets. Focusing on alternative materials and compressing environments, De Silva’s revolutionary practices went against the against the grain. The increasingly populated cities needed vertical development, space optimization, and economic solutions without ever compromising their principles of identity.

Prototype for Contemporary Tropical House

Minnette’s house for Ian Pieris in Colombo’s Alfred House Gardens of 1952 can be thought of as a prototype for contemporary living in a tropical city. The house is raised off the ground on columns and the groundfloor is given over to a carport, a guest room, two open loggias and a central midula or courtyard. The main living spaces are on the first floor where they enjoy enhanced privacy and better ventilation. Perforated grilles and glass louvers ensure constantly changing patterns of light and constant through breezes. The design may have been inspired in equal measure by the piloti houses of Le Corbusier and the traditional tampita vihare or raised temples of medieval Sri Lanka, but, typically, Minnette merges these two ideas to make something which is uniquely her own.

Modern construction is used – insitu concrete slabs with concealed beams – in conjunction with local materials such as kabook (laterite) and rough stone. Traditional handicrafts are also in evidence – lacquered wood, decorative wrought iron grills and woven mats.

The house still belongs to the Pieris family and is in reasonable condition.

Alfred House Gardens