|Seidler Penthouse by Penelope & Harry Seidler (1988), including artwork L-R by Frank Stella ("Midnight Aloft", 1988), tall Aboriginal poles from Tiwi Islands (c. 1960s), Hilarie Mias ("Gaea", 1988), and Rover Thomas (1990). |
Photo ©Darren Bradley
Just prior to my most recent trip back to Australia, I was contacted by Polly Seidler, daughter of architects Penelope and Harry Seidler, and invited to stop by the Seidler offices for a chat. As a long-time admirer of the Seidlers' work, it was quite an honor for me, and a real treat.
Readers of my blog or my Instagram feed are well aware of my obsession with Harry Seidler's work. I never miss an opportunity to visit one of his buildings, wherever I find them.
|Seidler-designed office building in at 41 McLaren Street in North Sydney, not far from the offices at Milsons Point. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
Seidler fled Austria in 1938 prior to World War II due to his Jewish heritage, and moved to England where he began his studies in architecture and construction. But he was soon interned there as an enemy alien, and eventually sent to an internment camp in Quebec, Canada. From there, he was released on probation so that he could continue his studies in architecture at the University of Manitoba. He then studied at the Harvard School of Design under Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, and also worked for Breuer in New York City.
|Robert C. Weaver Building in Washington, DC is an archetype example of Breuer's work, and his brilliant mastery of concrete forms . Photo ©Darren Bradley|
But his interests were broad and he was extremely interested in art and color theory, as well, which also took him to Black Mountain College, where he studied under Josef Albers. Finally, he also worked for Oscar Niemeyer in Rio de Janeiro for a spell before coming to Australia. Seidler would retain the influence of all of these great masters in his own work (as well as many others, including architects dating back to the baroque era), while creating an architectural language that was uniquely his own.
|The lobby at the Seidler-designed tower Australia Square features a mural by artist Sol LeWitt. The ceiling detail was designed in collaboration with Pier Luigi Nervi. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
He came to Australia originally just for a visit, and to design a home for his parents, Rose and Max Seidler, who had emigrated there after the war. The home he would design and build for them, completed in 1950, was ground-breaking and led to many more commissions in Australia. Seidler saw the opportunity to establish a meaningful career in that country, and so decided to stay.
|Rose Seidler Residence, completed in 1950. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
From these humble beginnings, he would go on to design many homes but also other buildings such as high-rise office towers and residential buildings that would define Sydney's skyline.
|Another view of iconic Australia Square, which won a Sulman Award in 1967. This photo is directly inspired by the famous shot by photographer Max Dupain, of course. |
Photo ©Darren Bradley
|MLC Centre by Harry Seidler, designed in 1972, completed in 1978, with canopy in foreground added in 1993. Project won a Sulman Award in 1983. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
|The Commercial Travelers Association is part of the MLC Centre complex by Harry Seidler. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
He also designed landmark buildings in other countries, such as the Australian Embassy in Paris, a major residential complex in Vienna, and the Hong Kong Club.
|Seidler designed the Australian Embassy in Paris in 1973, (completed in 1977, opened in 1978), with his old mentor Marcel Breuer and close collaborator Pier Luigi Nervi serving as consulting designers on the project. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
His own architectural offices sit perched on a bluff in Milsons Point, overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the downtown skyline.
|Harry Seidler's office at Milsons Point, with central Sydney and the Harbour Bridge in the background. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
Another Seidler-designed landmark, the Blues Point Tower, sits directly on the other side of an inlet.
|Blues Point Tower. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Edited by me.|
The offices are part of an office and residential complex designed by Seidler that represent his architectural language in the mid to later part of his career, with heavy use of rough-cut board-form concrete and concrete window shades. The glass and flowing forms contrast beautifully with the right angles of the board-form concrete.
|Front of Seidler Offices and Apartments at Milsons Point. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
I had been by the office several times to look at the exterior, but had never had the chance to see inside.
|Entrance to one of the Seidler-designed buildings at Milsons Point. Photo @Darren Bradley|
It was frankly moving to stand in Harry's office and imagine him there, working.
I had always known about Harry's love of modern art, and how that informed his own designs. But that became even more apparent in seeing the beautiful artwork displayed throughout the place - a legacy that continues with Penelope and Polly to this day. Seeing the work of Albers, Stella, Lichtenstein, LeWitt and others around the offices and apartment, and how they played off each other, was very revealing.
|I love that curved glass feature in the upstairs living room. Art by Roy Lichtenstein. Photo ©Darren Bradley|
Having the opportunity to visit and meet Polly and Penelope was a real privilege for me.
And seeing the adjacent penthouse apartment, designed by Penelope and Harry together in 1988, was almost too much to handle. I even got to spend some quiet time in the penthouse, taking it all in. What a day!
I'm very grateful to Polly and Penelope for their kindness and generosity. It was such a pleasure to meet them both.