Harry Seidler: Architecture, Art and Collaborative Design

Curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky, Founder of the Intercontinental Curatorial Project in New York, this exhibition at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture runs from September 12-October 10, 2013.

Harry Seidler (1923-2006) was the first architect to fully express Bauhaus principles in Australia, exemplified by his first project for his parents – the Rose Seidler House (Sydney, 1950). All his life, Seidler was, in his own words, “the torchbearer of modern architecture” – a sincere missionary for the cause of Modernism. In nearly 60 years of practice, the architect realized 160 projects – from single-family houses to apartment buildings, multi-storey office towers to civic and cultural centres, as well as important government commissions in Australia, Austria, France, Israel, Italy, Mexico and Hong Kong. Among his most notable works are the Australian Embassy in Paris; Wohnpark Neue Donau, a residential community in Vienna; and many characteristic towers, which essentially define the skyline of contemporary Sydney.

Seidler was born in Vienna into the upper-middle-class Jewish family. At the age of 15, he fled to England after Nazi Germany invaded Austria. In May 1940, he was interned by British authorities as an “enemy alien” and transported to a detention camp near Quebec City. In October 1941, he was released on parole to study architecture at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg where he received his Bachelor’s degree in 1944 with top honours, under the direction of Professor John A. Russell. He went on to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (1945-46) where he studied under Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer – a lifelong mentor and friend, and then took design and colour courses with Josef Albers at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina (1946). After working as Breuer’s first assistant in New York for two years, Seidler was invited by his mother to come to Australia, where his parents immigrated after the war, to design them a house. En route to Australia, Seidler worked at Oscar Niemeyer’s office in Rio de Janeiro for a few months. The Rose Seidler House commission led to establishing the architect’s practice in Sydney in 1948. Being rooted in a multitude of historical and contemporary sources, Seidler’s instantly recognizable hand evolved into a distinctly personal artistic language. His majestic forms were perpetually defined by rational planning, efficiency of standardized construction, and social and environmental considerations.

In accordance with Harry Seidler’s stated wishes, Penelope Seidler established an endowment fund at the University of Manitoba in 2009 in celebration of the life work of Dr. Harry Seidler and his mentor, Dean John Russell, and their commitment to design and society.

This exhibit is funded by the Seidler Architectural Foundation, Sydney, Australia. The ARCH 2 Gallery is grateful for the support of the Faculty of Architecture Endowment Fund and Dean Ralph Stern.

A lecture by curator Vladimir Belogolovsky takes place at 6:00pm on Thursday, September 12, 2013 in the Centre Space of the John A. Russell Building at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture. The opening reception for the exhibition immediately follows.