Renowned Australian architect Harry Seidler dies

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Renowned Australian architect Harry Seidler dies

Postby Paul Clerkin » Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:47 am

Renowned Australian architect Harry Seidler dies


SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Harry Seidler, an Austrian-born, Winnipeg-trained architect whose modernist designs inspired both awe and anger in Sydney, died Thursday from the effects of a stroke he suffered nearly a year ago, a business associate said. He was 82.

Probably his most recognizable - and controversial - building was the Blues Point Tower, a monolithic apartment block on a spit of land jutting into Sydney's harbour that some opponents said marred views of the famous waterway.

But Seidler poured scorn on the critics.

"It doesn't worry me that people have criticized the building," he told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper in a 2002 interview. "What do you expect from illiterate people? They're insensitive and uneducated so why should I take that seriously?"

Seidler was recognized as one of Australia's most significant modern architects, designing landmark tower blocks in Sydney as well as family homes, some of which were based on the principles of the Bauhaus movement.

Glenn Murcutt, the founder and president of the Australian Architecture Association, said Seidler brought modernism in architecture to large-scale commercial design.

But Murcutt acknowledged the public wasn't always impressed.

"Harry brought art to architecture," Murcutt told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"I know the public found it difficult at times to understand his work, but that tells more about the public perception than it does about the quality of Harry's work," he added. "This is a great loss to Australia. To have lost Harry, it has been almost the end of ... a remarkable era in this country."

Seidler died at his Sydney home, following a stroke in April last year, close friend and business associate John Hurst said. "He had a very severe stroke and he never recovered," Hurst said.

Born in Vienna in 1923, Seidler fled Austria after Nazi Germany's annexation of the country.

He arrived in Britain where he was put in an internment camp and later sent to Canada as an "enemy alien."

After his release, he remained in Canada to study at the University of Manitoba, from which he graduated with first class honours in architecture.

Moving to Harvard University in the United States, he continued his studies under the Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius, and studied design under Joseph Albers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.

He moved to Australia in 1948.

He was credited with introducing U.S.-style office blocks to Australia in the 1960s with his 50-storey downtown office complex Australia Square, now topped by a revolving restaurant.

The home he built between 1948 and 1950 for his parents in leafy northern Sydney - known as the Rose Seidler House - is his most famous house, a 200 square metre rectangular box-like structure with concrete floors and large windows overlooking bushland to the north. It is now preserved and open to the public.

Seidler was awarded the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1976 and the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal in 1996.

Royal Australian Institute of Architects president Bob Nation said Seidler had been a "modernist master" who trained under the world's best.

"His influence in shaping the architects and architecture of Australia, through his role as pioneer and advocate of the modernist movement, has been hugely significant," Nation said.

Seidler's wife of 47 years, Penelope, paid tribute to her husband in a brief, written statement.

"Harry was a passionate Australian and his genius was recognized internationally," she said. "He was a loving husband and father, and will be sadly missed."

Seidler is survived by his wife, son Timothy and daughter Polly.

The family was planning a private funeral and a memorial service at a later date.
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