Australia: architect Harry Seidler dies

Harry Seidler and his Horizons buildingBy Paul Bartizan:

“To Each Time Its Art, to Art Its Freedom”

Modernist architect Harry Seidler dies in Australia

20 June 2006

Australian architect Harry Seidler died March 9, aged 82, nearly a year after suffering a massive stroke, from which he never fully recovered.

Seidler was an uncompromising, passionate and skilled architect who designed over 180 buildings in a career spanning more than half a century.

While the majority of his works were built in Australia, where his practice was based, Seidler was very much an international architect.

His career constituted a living link with the Modern Movement in architecture, which was borne out of the revolutionary ferment of the first decades of the twentieth century.

He was inspired by profoundly humanist ideals.

Born on June 25, 1923 into a well-off Jewish family in Vienna, Seidler, along with his one brother and parents, was forced to flee to Britain following the Anschluss of March 1938.

The 15-year-old youth was separated from his parents and then cruelly interned by the British government as an enemy alien when the war broke out, despite having fled the Nazi regime.

Eventually he was deported to Canada and interned in Quebec.

Throughout his life Seidler often referred to the words inscribed over the entry to the Secession building in Vienna. “Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit” (To Each Time Its Art, to Art Its Freedom).

The Vienna that Seidler and his family had fled had been the scene of amazing cultural and intellectual developments.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, the city was home to Kokoschka, Klimt, Egon Schiele (painters), Mahler, Arnold Schönberg, Berg, Anton von Webern (composers), Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Robert Musil (writers), Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler (psychoanalysts), Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner (architects), Karl Kraus (journalist-essayist), the Austro-Marxists, as well as Russian revolutionary exiles such as Leon Trotsky and Adolph Joffe.

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