Harry Seidler

Harry Seidler

Seidler himself continues to cater to the Great Australian Dream, helping his clients as best he can to realise that dream. However, his work on individual dwellings has been counterbalanced throughout most of his career by other equally important social commitments. These include not only raising the standards of commercial architecture - at which he has few rivals anywhere - but, as the above projects demonstrate, also a search for higher quality living at higher densities, and to improving the general quality of life in the city.

For Seidler, there is no division between his single house designs and his other work. Each informs and sustains the other in a continuously fertile and critical exchange of ideas - as the contents of this book testify. As a result of that process, Seidler's later houses express an urbane quality which, while it may not conform to the rugged, rural image preferred by others, possibly better reflects the more complex realities of Australia's highly urbanized and rapidly changing culture.

Far from being the last of anything, Seidler is also best appreciated as one of those few designers who, by opening modernism up to fresh influences and interpretations, both historical and contemporary, gave it new life during the period when it was most under attack. That larger battle - certainly more important than the minor local struggles Seidler has endured, though not entirely disconnected form them - is also now more or less won. As one of a handful of architects of his own generation able to match a creative imagination with technical competence and flair, he will also surely come to be recognised, if he is not already, as one of the very first designers in the twentieth century able to fully realise the modernist dream of the integration of art and technology - the ultimate integration of opposites.

From: 'Harry Seidler and the Great Australian Dream'. In Harry Seidler: Houses and Interiors, Vol. 2. Images Publishing, 2003, p. 13.

The completed tripartite design comprises 11 floors of parking, 25 floors of offices and 12 floors of apartments, each group of which is visually and spatially separated from the other by a double height floor of plant rooms, combined, at the higher level, with recreational facilities for the apartments. While tripartite vertical divisions of skyscrapers have been around almost as long as the type itself, they have usually been based more on aesthetic principles than functional divisions, the common analogy with the base, middle and top of the classical column being the most familiar case. Multifunctional towers, while still rare, are also nothing new in themselves. However, like SOM's famed John Hancock tower in Chicago, which also includes stacks of parking, office and apartment floors, they tend to conceal their different functions beneath a unitary envelope and structure.

All of these familiar models conform to what may be called the 'extrusion principle' of skyscraper design - meaning that the configuration of the upper floors is a simple upward extrusion of the configuration of the lower floors. While, following the classic model of the early skyscrapers in North America, it might shrink in overall dimensions the higher it goes, the plan typology stays much the same and the shape of the upper floors can be easily predicted from the shape of the lower floors. The only marked variation usually occurs in the lowermost floors or podium, which may be larger than the tower and include different functions.

While it does not break entirely with the extrusion principle - the core stays pretty much the same shape all the way up - the Riparian Plaza marks a major departure from that principle, and from skyscraper design in general, in the flamboyant expression of each part.

From 'Riparian Plaza'. Architectural Review Australia, No. 097, May 2006, pp. 52-63.