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.
Harry Seidler designed more than 180 buildings and he received much recognition for his contribution to Architecture of Australia. Seidler consistently won architectural awards every decade throughout his Australian career of almost 58 years across the varied categories – his residential work from 1950, his commercial work from 1967, and his public commissions from the 1970s.
Harry Seidler was born in Vienna in 1923. The Nazi occupation of Austria in 1938 led him to join his brother Marcell in England where he completed a building course. The outbreak of war in 1939 saw him and his brother interned as ‘enemy aliens’ and shipped to a Canadian camp.
In 1941 he was released to study at the University of Manitoba where he obtained a Bachelor of Architecture degree with first class honours. After a year of mundane architectural work in Canada he won a scholarship to the Harvard School of Design where he studied under Walter Gropius, former head of the Bauhaus. He left Harvard’s ‘electrifying atmosphere’ with the ‘feeling that we were destined to play our part in transforming the visual man-made world’. This commitment to modernism was reinforced by his attendance at the 1946 summer school at Black Mountain College where he studied with Josef Albers, former design teacher at the Bauhaus.
In 1946-48 Seidler was Chief Assistant to Marcel Breuer in his New York office. It was at this point in 1948 that he was enticed to Australia by his mother to design and build Rose Seidler House. He came to Australia via Brazil and contact with the flamboyant Brazilian Oscar Niemeyer.
Seidler arrived in Australia to a family reunion, his first architectural commission (rapidly followed by others), wonder at the Australian landscape and horror at its suburban ‘architectural wasteland’. These factors led to his permanent commitment to Australia as home and creative challenge.