Harry Seidler: Australia’s Modernist Maestro

Harry Seidler (1923 – 2006) was born in Vienna, Austria. His architectural schooling took him initial to England: escaping the Nazi occupation of Austria, he attended a polytechnic college in Cambridge. Following the outbreak of WWII, Seidler – an alien from an enemy nation – was interned in England and the Isle of Man, then sent to Canada. Paroled in 1941, he continued his studies at the University of Manitoba in Western Canada. Graduating in 1944, Seidler won a scholarship to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and attended Walter Gropius’s masterclass from 1945-46.

Harry Seidler

Harry Seidler, Killara, Sydney (1984). Photograph by David Moore © National Portrait Gallery 2016.

Walter Gropius, the very first director of the Bauhaus, instilled in his students the idea that they must occasion vital alterations to the bodily surroundings, so making sure the betterment of a manmade planet. As nicely as Walter Gropius, Seidler worked with other prominent architects and visionary protagonists of worldwide modernism. In 1946-48, he was the 1st assistant to Marcel Breuer, one-time head of the carpentry workshop at the Bauhaus and a veritable master of modernism. In 1948, with the pleasure stirred by Brazil’s new architecture, Seidler travelled to Rio exactly where he worked with the distinguished Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer.

Rose Seidler House Public Plaza and restaurants Australia Sqaure Sydney Harbour Australia Square Sydney 2007 Deck at Rose Seidler House in April 2011 Harry and Penelope Seidler house  Seidler home in Killara Sydney Hillside Housing Hong Kong Club Horizon view of city and harbour Horizon wave-shaped balcony MLC Centre

Rose Seidler Home

Harry Seidler moved to Australia in 1948 where he applied his learned ideals on modernist methodology. At the request of his mom, Seidler’s first commission was to design and style a home for his mothers and fathers. It became recognized as the Rose Seidler Property (now a public museum) and was an exceptionally modernist dwelling in Australia at that time, drawing significantly interest and acclamation.

Rose Seidler House

Rose Seidler Residence. Image © Harry Seidler & Associates Pty Ltd.

Deck at Rose Seidler House in April 2011

Deck at Rose Seidler Property in April 2011. Photograph © Phyllis Wong, Historic Homes Believe in of NSW. Image via Sydney Living Museums.

Australia Square

Harry Seidler was a major figure in laying the foundations for post-war modern style and architecture in Australia. His architecture was genuinely an ar2rk type, both easy and practical in its manifestation. An exceptional talent, Seidler had a marked effect on the development of Sydney’s skyline. For far more than half a century, he would style varied bold and modern day structures in Australia and internationally.

Australia Sqaure Sydney Harbour

Australia Square in the context of Sydney Harbour. Picture © Harry Seidler & Associates Pty Ltd.

In 1960, Seidler was asked to design Australia Square, an ambitious development in Sydney’s central company district. Work commenced on the project in 1961, with plans for a tower, plaza, retail and parking in the mix. Australia Square was finished in 1967 the 50-storey circular Tower Creating was Australia’s first skyscraper and at that time, the world’s tallest lightweight concrete creating. This modernist icon occupied just 25 % of the Australia Square internet site, with the remainder of the location offered above to a public plaza.

Rib structure The Tower

Rib framework used in the Tower Creating at Australia Square. Picture © Harry Seidler & Associates Pty Ltd.

Public Plaza and restaurants

Public plaza and eating places. Image © Harry Seidler & Associates Pty Ltd.

Australia Square Sydney 2007

Australia Square, Sydney, 2007. Picture by Elekhh via Wikimedia Commons.

Harry and Penelope Seidler property

The Harry and Penelope Seidler residence is a excellent instance of the near bond that can exist amongst concrete and nature. Nestled amid a cornucopia of lush Australian vegetation and ensconced upon a steep bushland internet site in Killara on Sydney’s Upper North Shore, this brutalist residence is an architectural masterpiece. Designed and built in the 1960s by Harry and Penelope Seidler, the property adopted a functionalist type of architecture and is the epitome of modernist ideals. Trus2rthy, exhilarating and raw, the Seidler property displays brutalism on an intimate human scale, its powerful varieties both exalted and elegant. In Australia, the home is widely considered an eminent example of a house in the brutalist fashion, even though Harry Seidler did reject the ‘brutalist’ label.

Harry and Penelope Seidler house 

Photo by Ross Honeysett © 2016 MONOCLE.

The Seidler house comprises 4 half-storey levels that adhere to the landscape’s sloping and rocky typology. A clever open-strategy layout ensures that differing perspectives and vistas are provided during. The home’s frame and roof have been created making use of concrete, and ceilings are manufactured from Tasmanian mountain ash. Bauhaus influences and aesthetics are in proof across the residence, remaining as progressive these days as when the house was initial built.

Harry and Penelope Seidler house interior

Pictures by Ross Honeysett © 2016 MONOCLE.

As a piece of architecture, the Harry and Penelope Seidler property stands with integrity, a testament to the wonder and veracity of modernist principles. It is a truly sublime family residence.

Penelope Seidler at the Killara House

Penelope Seidler at the Killara Residence. Photo by Harry Seidler, 1967. Courtesy of and © Penelope Seidler. Picture via Sydney Living Museums.

Seidler home in Killara Sydney

Seidler house, Killara, Sydney. Picture by Sardaka via Wikimedia Commons.

Other works by Harry Seidler

As effectively as the aforementioned design and style triumphs, there are several other important architectural accomplishments by Harry Seidler. Several favourites contain:

MLC Centre

MLC Centre. Designed 1972-75. An imposing city centre precast concrete workplace tower in Sydney. Picture © Harry Seidler & Associates Pty Ltd.

Hillside Housing

Hillside Housing. Made 1979-82. A resort village with fifty 5 holiday houses positioned in Kooralbyn, Queensland. Picture © Harry Seidler & Associates Pty Ltd.

Hong Kong Club

Hong Kong Club. Created 1980-84. A prominent prestressed concrete framework in central Hong Kong. Image © Harry Seidler & Associates Pty Ltd.

Horizon view of city and harbour Horizon wave-shaped balcony

Horizon Apartments. Created 1990-98. 43 storeys of prestressed concrete overlooking Sydney’s harbour. Images © Harry Seidler & Associates Pty Ltd.


Frampton, K. & Drew, P. (1992) Harry Seidler: 4 Decades of Architecture. Thames and Hudson Ltd, London.

Harry Seidler & Associates. (2016) Harry Seidler biography. [On-line] Available here. [Accessed: 26th March 2016].

NSW: Office of Environment & Heritage. (2016) Harry and Penelope Seidler House. [On-line] Available here. [Accessed: 26th March 2016].

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