Harry Seidler

Harry Seidler

Harry Seidler, AC OBE (25 June 1923 Vienna — 9 March 2006 Sydney) was an Austrian-born Australian architect who is considered to be one of the leading exponents of Modernism's methodology in Australia and the first architect to fully express the principles of the Bauhaus in Australia.

Early life

Seidler was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria. He fled as a teenager to England when Nazi Germany occupied Austria in 1938.


In England, he studied building and construction at Cambridge Technical College. In May 1940, he was interned by the British authorities as an enemy alien, before being shipped to Quebec, Canada and continued to be interned until October 1941, when he was released on parole to study architecture at the University of Manitoba.

Although he was ten years old when the Bauhaus was closed, Seidler's analysts invariably associate him with the Bauhaus because he later studied under emigre Bauhaus teachers in the USA. He attended Harvard Graduate School of Design under Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer on a scholarship in 1945-46, during which time he did vacation work with Alvar Aalto in Boston drawing up plans for the Baker dormitory at MIT. He then attended Black Mountain College under the painter Josef Albers, and then worked for Marcel Breuer in New York. Seidler also worked in the studio of the architect Oscar Niemeyer in Rio de Janeiro.

Life in Australia

Seidler's parents migrated to New South Wales, Australia and commissioned him to design their home which became known as the Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga, New South Wales (1948-1950). This project was the first domestic residence to fully express the philosophy of the Bauhaus in Australia.

In the 1960s Seidler again broke new ground with his radical design for the Australia Square project (1961-67).

He was a founding member of the Australian Architecture Association. In 1984 he became the first Australian to be elected a member of the Academie d'Architecture, Paris and in 1987 was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, an honour which he accepted in his trademark suit and bowtie. Over the years Mr Seidler was also awarded five Sulman Medals by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, as well as the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1976, and the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1996.

:"For 50 years Harry Seidler has played a vital role in international architecture. His work is widely recognised as an original and intensely creative contribution to the architecture of the second half of the 20th Century."

::--Dennis Sharp in his introduction to the book "Master architects: Harry Seidler".

Personal life

Harry Seidler married Penelope Evatt on 15 December 1958, they had two children, a son Timothy and daughter, Polly.

Seidler enjoyed photographing architecture around the world and some of these are documented in his photography book "The Grand Tour". He also enjoyed skiing.

Penelope Seidler, herself an architect, gained her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Sydney and joined Seidler and Associates in 1964 as architect and financial manager. [ [http://www.specifier.com.au/architects/16084/Penelope-Seidler.html Penelope Seidler ] ]


Seidler's work has been widely praised, he has won many awards, and he has been one of the most prolific Australian architects. However his designs are not universally popular and he was often criticized for his single-minded pursuit of Modernist design principles. He has aggravated critics with aggressive and intimidatory defences of his work and reputation, and by his evident disdain for Australia's trend to preserve only facades of old buildings in the name of heritage. In 1998, Seidler was quoted in UK's 'Wallpaper' magazine as saying that Australian architects:

:"... don't measure up in international terms. There's nobody and nothing here that sends the blood pressure up. It's a backwater, a provincial dump in terms of the built environment." ("The Age", 17 April 2002).

One of his early major commissions, the Blues Point Tower residential block on Sydney Harbour, remains controversial and arguably the most reviled of all modern Sydney buildings. The tower has been widely criticised in Sydney for its extremely prominent placement on Blues Point, a northern headland of the Harbour just west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The tower had been initially conceived as one of many similar ones in a residential scheme for the entire peninsula, in response to proposed industrial zoning for the area, but because the area had many private land holdings, the overall concept was not realised, resulting in Blues Point Tower standing alone when it was built in 1961. Seidler pointed out that, despite its significant visual impact, his high-rise design leaves considerable open space around the building, whereas the only other way to accommodate the same number of residents on the site would have been to cover the entire area in low-rise apartments. Seidler also noted that the pattern of the windows had been praised by the Australian artist Lloyd Rees, and some writers had compared the facades' window pattern to an Albers' artwork.

Similar criticisms have been levelled at Seidler's high-rise complex, the "Horizon" apartments in Darlinghurst, Sydney (1990-98). Built on one of the highest points in the Sydney city area, residents enjoy commanding views of the city and harbour and west to the Blue Mountains. The tower is extremely prominent and can be seen for many kilometres in almost all directions. The Horizon complex includes low-rise terraces on the site boundaries to continue the theme of Victorian and Edwardian terrace housing in the area.

Many of Seidler's designs were a highly demonstrative enactment of his Modernist design methodology, which he saw as an amalgam of three elements: social use, technology and aesthetics. He always insisted that he had no fixed 'style', since these three elements were in constant flux, and so his work constantly evolved throughout his 57 years of designing in Australia. He appeared impervious to recent trends in architecture, such as the stylistically broader and post-modern styles expressed by younger contemporaries such as Glenn Murcutt.

Murcutt's flowing, small-scale designs make extensive use of semi-permanent materials such as wood and corrugated iron -- in contrast to the glass and concrete so beloved of Modernists -- and his work has been profoundly shaped by an awareness of the unique qualities of the Australian landscape and climate. In a different approach, Seidler sought to respond to Australian climate by the extensive use of sunshades and flamboyantly-shaped rain protecting canopies on his skyscrapers, (such as Grosvenor Place, Riverside Centre, and QV1), large covered balconies in his houses, as well as shaping his designs to maximize views and enjoyment of the outdoors from inside.

Seidler raised the hackles of heritage advocates in the mid 1980s with his plan to demolish an Edwardian-era building known as the Johnson's Overalls building, located at the corner of the city block occupied by Seidler's multi-storey "Grosvenor Place" office development, near Circular Quay. Seidler doggedly insisted that the Johnson's Overall building (which then consisted only of facades) be demolished, noting that the existing building had been built on the site of Sydney's first parade ground - the first Sydney site ordered to be cleared by Governor Phillip. Seidler also claimed that its presence meant that the beautiful eastern facade of adjoining Royal Naval House was obscured. He advocated that the site, to be called "Bicentennial Square", should be landscaped as open space with trees and some seating to give proper room for pedestrians, who were otherwise squeezed onto a narrow corner footpath, but Seidler's plans were never realised, and the Johnson's building was preserved.

While Seidler was recovering from a stroke in August 2005, the surprise news came that Seidler, widely regarded as one of Australia's eminent citizens, had allegedly lost his Australian citizenship, when in 1985 the Austrian government restored the Austrian citizenship he lost after the Nazi occupation of Austria. Amidst protests by refugee advocates, and a discovery of error of fact that Seidler had never applied for the renewed Austrian citizenship, the Australian government realised its 1985 decision to remove his Australian citizenship was mistaken, and so Seidler remained Australian. [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/call-to-sack-officials-over-seidler-bungle/2005/08/02/1122748618331.html?oneclick=true]

Harry Seidler never fully recovered from his stroke of April 25, 2005, and died in Sydney on March 9, 2006 at age 82.

Collaboration with visual artists

Seidler was a frequent and enthusiastic collaborator with visual artists in the creation of his buildings. While his collaborators include famous or notable figures such as Alexander Calder, Jørn Utzon, John Olsen, Victor Vasarely, Norman Carlberg (a fellow student of Joseph Albers), and many others, by far the most important of the collaborators was his mentor Albers. Seidler included works by Albers - perhaps the single person most influential on his design philosophy - in a number of projects (notably the MLC Centre with 'Homage to the Square' and 'The Wrestle'). As Paul Bartizan indicates in his obituary tribute to Seidler, these works of art were not mere 'plop art'; they were really planned to be integrated with and complementary to the buildings into which they were placed: "In many of his projects, Seidler worked with artists whose works became an intrinsic component of his designs." [http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jun2006/seid-j20.shtml]

List of buildings

* 1948-50: Rose Seidler House, Wahroonga (Sydney), Australia
* 1949-51: Marcus Seidler House, Turramurra (Sydney), Australia
* 1950: Meller House, Castlecrag (Sydney), Australia
* 1952: Hutter House, Turramurra (Sydney), Australia
* 1952-53: Williamson House, (also known as "Igloo House"), Mosman (Sydney), Australia [http://www.heritage.nsw.gov.au/07_subnav_02_2.cfm?itemid=5045139]
* 1959: Canberra South Bowling Club, Griffith (Canberra), Australia [http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/pictoria/a/2/3/doc/a23177.shtml]
* 1960: Ithaca Gardens, Elizabeth Bay (Sydney), Australia
* 1961: Grimson & Rose Exhibition House, Pennant Hills (Sydney), Australia
* 1961: Blues Point Tower, McMahons Point (Sydney), Australia
* 1961: Wood House, Penrith (Sydney), Australia
* 1961-67: Australia Square Tower, Sydney, Australia
* 1962: Ski Lodge, Thredbo, Australia
* 1963: Muller House, Port Hacking (Sydney), Australia
* 1963-65: Rushcutters Bay Apartments, Rushcutters Bay (Sydney), Australia
* 1964-67: NSW Housing Commission Apartments, Roseberry (Sydney), Australia
* 1964-68: Garran Group Housing, Canberra, Australia
* 1965-66: Arlington Apartments, Edgecliff (Sydney), Australia
* 1966-67: Harry and Penelope Seidler House, Killara (Sydney), Australia
* 1969-70: Condominium Apartments, Acapulco, Mexico
* 1970-74: Edmund Barton Building (formerly "Trade Group Offices"), Canberra, Australia
* 1971-72: Gissing House, Wahroonga (Sydney), Australia
* 1972-75: MLC Centre, Sydney, Australia
* 1973-77: Embassy of Australia in Paris, France
* 1973-94: Harry Seidler Offices and Apartments, Milsons Point (Sydney), Australia
* 1978-80: Karalyka Centre (formerly "Ringwood Cultural Centre") (many non-Seidler alterations), Ringwood (Melbourne), Australia
* 1979-82: Hillside Housing, Kooralbyn (Gold Coast), Australia
* 1980-84: Hong Kong Club Building, Hong Kong Central
* 1981-83: Merson House, Palm Beach (Sydney), Australia
* 1982-84: Monash City Council (formerly "Waverley Civic Centre"), Glen Waverley (Melbourne), Australia
* 1982-88: Grosvenor Place, Sydney, Australia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLYRzulISmA&feature=related (Sulman Award 1991 film online in 2 parts)
* 1983-84: Hannes House, Cammeray (Sydney), Australia
* 1983-86: Riverside Centre, Brisbane, Australia
* 1984-89: Castlereagh Centre (formerly "Capita Centre"), Sydney, Australia
* 1985: Garden Island Dockyard Workshop, Garden Island (Sydney), Australia
* 1985-89: 1 Spring Street (formerly "Shell House"), Melbourne, Australia
* 1987-91: QV1, Perth, Australia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoprKZS3xl8 (1990 lecture online in 4 parts)
* 1989-91: Hamilton House, Vaucluse (Sydney), Australia
* 1990: Monash Gallery of Art (with non-Seidler additions), Wheelers Hill (Melbourne), Australia
* 1990-98: Horizon Apartments, Darlinghurst (Sydney), Australia
* 1993-98: Wohnpark Neue Donau, Vienna, Austria
* 1994-95: Meares House, Birchgrove (Sydney), Australia
* 1995-96: Gilhotra House, Hunters Hill (Sydney), Australia
* 1995-00: Grollo Tower project, Melbourne, Australia (never built)
* 1996-98: Elizabeth Street Offices, Surry Hills (Sydney), Australia
* 1996-99: Berman House, Joadja, New South Wales, Australia
* 1996-02: Hochhaus Neue Donau, Vienna, Austria
* 1999: Cove Apartments, Sydney, Australia
* 1999-05: Riparian Plaza, Brisbane, Australia
* 1999-00: ARCA Showroom, Perth, Australia
* 2001-06: Meriton Tower, Sydney, Australia
* 2003: North Apartments, Sydney, Australia
* 2001-07: Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre, (formerly "Ultimo Aquatic Centre")Sydney, Australia


* 1951, 1967, 1981, 1983, 1991 Sir John Sulman Medal
* 1965, 1966, 1967 Wilkinson Award
* 1966 Honorary Fellowship from the American Institute of Architects (AIA)
* 1967 Civic Design Award
* 1968 Pan Pacific Citation of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)
* 1976, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1992, 2001 various honours of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA)
* 1984 Member of the Academie d'Architecture, Paris
* 1984 Honorary Member of the Society of Graphic Artists of Austria ("Künstlerhaus")
* 1985 Honorarary Citizenship of Austria
* 1987 Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) (Australia's highest honour)
* 1989 Gold Medal City of Vienna
* 1992 Officer of the Order of the British Empire
* 1996 Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
* 1996 Austrian Badge of Honour for Science and Art
* 2002 Golden Badge of Honour for Merits for Vienna
* 2004 Honour for International Highrises of the city of Frankfurt for "Cove Apartments" in Sydney




Private Residential

32 beckton place Lilli Pilli, Sydney

ee also

*Josef Albers
*Walter Gropius
*Marcel Breuer
*Oscar Niemeyer
*Formalism (art)
*Australian Architecture Association
*Australian Architectural Styles


by Harry Seidler

* "Internment: The Diaries of Harry Seidler May 1940-October 1941", Unwin Hyman 1987, ISBN 0868619159, in co-operation with Janis Wilton, Judith Winternitz (out of print)
* "The Grand Tour, Travelling the World with an Architect's Eye ", Taschen 2004, ISBN 9783822825556 (English)(704 pages).http://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/books/architecture/all/facts/01864.htm

about Harry Seidler

* Peter Blake: "Architecture for the New World: The Work of Harry Seidler", Sydney 1973, ISBN 3782814592
* Peter Blake: "Harry Seidler - Australian Embassy Paris. Ambassade d'Australie, Paris", Sydney 1979, ISBN 3782814436
* Philip Drew:"Two Towers. Harry Seidler, Australia Square, MLC-Center", 1980, ISBN 3782814576
* Kenneth Frampton: "Harry Seidler, Riverside Centre", Horwitz Graham, Sydney/ Karl Kraemer, Stuttgart, 1988, ISBN 0725520566
* Kenneth Frampton, Philip Drew: "Harry Seidler: Four Decades of Architecture", Thames & H. 1992, ISBN 0500978387
* Dennis Sharp (introduction): "Harry Seidler: Selected and Current Works", The Master Architect Series III, Images Publishing 1997, ISBN 1875498753
* Alice Spigelman: "The Life of Harry Seidler", Brandl & Schlesinger 2001, ISBN 1876040157
* Chris Abel (introduction): "Harry Seidler - Houses & Interiors", Volume 1 (1948-1970) & Volume 2(1970-2000), Images Publishing, Mulgrave (Melbourne) 2003, (Vol. 1) ISBN 1864701048 ,(Vol. 2) ISBN 1864701056 , Boxed Set ISBN 1920744169
* Wolfgang Förster: "Harry Seidler, Wohnpark Neue Donau Wien", Prestel 2002, ISBN 3791327038


External links

* [http://www.seidler.net.au Harry Seidler official website]
* [http://www.soloarquitectura.com/arquitectos/seidlerharry.html solo arquitectura - Harry Seidler]
* [http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/cover_stories/transcript_272.asp ninemsn "Sunday" website -- "Deconstructing Harry"]
* [http://www.atmitchell.com/journeys/arts/seidler/ The Seidler Collection - State Library of NSW]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-EM99-U2AY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnvtULUS7aI - Film screened at Harry Seidler Memorial 6 April 2006 (online in 2 parts).
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoprKZS3xl8 --QVI, Perth illustrated lecture by Harry Seidler 1990 (online in 4 parts)]
* [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLYRzulISmA&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vACAdDCjlbU&feature=related -- Grosvenor Place, Sydney Sulman Award 1991 film (online in 2 parts)]
* [ -- Rose Seidler House and interview with Harry Seidler 7 November 2004 video by Year 9 student Tom Cocquerel]

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