Celebrating Harry Seidler, the Architect Who Brought the Bauhaus to Australia

Harry and Penelope Seidler House, Sydney, 1966-67. Photo: Max Dupain

As of now, architect Harry Seidler‘s name might have little currency outside of Australia, but the Austrian-born modernist (one of few individuals whom we can gleefully describe as “Austro-Australian”) is marching into the limelight with a new traveling retrospective exhibition that arrives tomorrow at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga, Latvia. “Harry Seidler: Architecture, Art and Collaborative Design” celebrates the 90 years since the birth of the premier importer of Bauhaus-bred modernism to Australia, bringing his legacy to exhibition venues in Houston, Asheville, North Carolina (at Seidler’s alma mater Black Mountain College), Winnipeg (at another alma mater, the University of Manitoba), and eventually Sydney and Vienna.

Julian Rose House, Wahroonga, Sydney, 1949-50. Photo: Max Dupain

The exhibition features 15 projects and parses out Seidler’s personal journey out from under the wings of Walter Gropius (pictured left with a young Seidler) and Marcel Breuer to his years spent developing ideas with the likes of Oscar Niemeyer and Pier Luigi Nervi, to his rise to becoming the leading Australian architect of the 20th century. Curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky of the Intercontinental Curatorial Project in New York, the show will bring together models, photographs, films, drawings, and personal artifacts from the architect’s life in hopes of knitting together a portrait of a gifted architect and, beyond this, an eminent champion of the arts. Seidler, whose houses and towers display experimental approaches to structure, material, and space seen in the most canonical modernist artifacts, drew inspiration not only from architecture’s avant-garde but also the work of artists such as Josef Albers, Alexander Calder, Sol LeWitt, and Frank Stella.

Hong Kong Club Building, Hong Kong (1984)

Curator Vladimir Belogolovsky stressed the importance of the show, “particularly today when so many architects are entrenched with their ambitions compromised and scaled down,” he said, according to ArchDaily. To Belogolovsky, the Siedler exhibition strives to revive the importance of inspiration in such times, to recall the charged spirit and faith in humanity that pulsated through modernism’s steel and concrete creations: “Seidler’s vision was grand and he drew his inspiration from a multitude of sources – art, geometry, history, and so on. I would particularly stress the importance of art as an endless source of creative inspiration for architecture.”

For more information on the architect, the exhibition, and the accompanying book including texts by Barry Bergdoll, Norman Foster, Kenneth Frampton, and Oscar Niemeyer and artwork by Massimo Vignelli, visit the Intercontinental Curatorial Project website.

- Kelly Chan