It has been 10 years since the passing of acclaimed architect Harry Seidler, described as one of the greatest mainstream modernists to have ever lived. But according to Daryl Dellora – director of the documentary Harry Seidler: Modernist – the rest of the world is still discovering him. And Dellora’s upcoming film, premiering at Sydney Opera House on October 22, hopes to play a big part in uncovering the man behind the architecture.
“You can’t understand architecture until you understand the story of the people who conceived it, made it, wanted it built, use it and move through it every day,” says Dellora. “Harry’s story is such a powerful story.” The 60-minute documentary is a portrait of a man from the perspective of the people who knew him best, including his wife Penelope, and acclaimed architects Lord Richard Rogers (The Pompidou Centre in Paris) and Lord Norman Foster (The Gherkin building in London).
During a career that spanned almost 60 years Seidler won every major Australian architectural prize for his distinctively designed private homes and innovatively engineered buildings. But it was his engaging, passionate and focused personality that inspired Dellora to make a film about him. “He was always interested in architecture. Fascinated about it. Always interested in learning and education,” he says.
Dellora describes the modern architecture Seidler introduced to Australia in the 1950s as something Australia had never seen before. He says Seidler came out of his war experience with a strong sense of what [professor] Walter Gropius instilled in him at Harvard – “It is your job to build you in a better world.” Which, though Dellora says may sound grandiose, was the strong, compelling force behind Seidler’s body of work. This and the desire to bring great architecture to people who otherwise would never have interesting or exciting design in their lives.
The film features footage in London, Paris, Vienna and Australia-wide – locations with a strong connection to Seidler, who was a key figure in local and international modern architecture. Though when asked what his greatest work was, according to Dellora he’d say, “I don’t think about that. I’m just thinking about my next project. That’s more important to me.”
The premier will be followed by a Q&A discussion with director, Daryl Dellora, modernism academic Dr Paola Favaro and Foundation Board Member Penelope Seidler, wife of Harry and director of their firm Harry Seidler & Associates. The session will be moderated by the foundation’s chair, emeritus professor Alec Tzannes AM.