The Trouser under the Cloth: Colonial, Vernacular and Regionalist Identities in the Making of a Sri Lankan Architecture – A Talk by Prof. Anoma Pieris

The SSA was pleased to host a talk by Prof. Anoma Peiris of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne on Thursday, the 8th of May, 2o14 at 4.30pm at the SSA premises.


The role of the home, the domestic sphere and the intimate identities cultivated within it, are critical to understanding the polemical constructions of tradition and modernity, and regionalism and cosmopolitanism. The home is fundamental to ideas of the homeland that give nationalism its imaginative form and political trajectory.

This paper explores architectural positions fundamental to bourgeois self-fashioning and post colonial identity construction in Ceylon/Sri Lanka. The manipulation of multivalent identities that is implied in the title ‘The Trouser under the Cloth’ suggest patterns of indigenous accommodation and resistance expressed through built form. The nation grows as an extension of an indigenous private sphere, domesticating institutions and appropriating rural geographies in the pursuit of its hegemonic ideals. Architects, clients, politicians and authors feed its metropolitan dreams.

The paper focuses specifically on the post-independence era and the shift from Buddhist eclecticism through the vernacular revival to what is described as the descent into regionalism. It highlights the discursive polemics that accompany works by pioneering architects.

Anoma Pieris is an associate professor at the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne. Her most recent publications include, Hidden Hands and Divided Landscapes: A Penal History of Singapore’s Plural Society (2009), Architecture and Nationalism in Sri Lanka: the Trouser under the Cloth (2012) and with Janet McGaw,Assembling the Centre: Architecture for Indigenous Cultures, Australia and Beyond(forthcoming 2014).