TALK / New World: Harry Seidler, Brazil and the Australian City

Image: Yacht Club, Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, by night, 1940. Architect Oscar Niemeyer. 
Photograph. Architectural Press Archive/RIBA Collections.  source Humanitix.

Penelope Visiting Professorship in Architectural History

Professor Philip Goad (University of Melbourne) will discuss the impact on Harry Seidler’s architecture of his six-week visit to Brazil journey in 1948, en-route to Australia from the United States, in which he worked briefly for Oscar Niemeyer and visited numerous examples of Brazilian modernism. 

This event has been made possible by the generous support of Penelope Seidler.

Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 
1 Conservatorium Rd, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Thu May 19 2022, / 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Get tickets / Price: Free


In 1948, en-route to Australia from the United States, young Viennese-born architect Harry Seidler spent just over six weeks in Brazil. There, he worked briefly for Oscar Niemeyer and visited numerous examples of Brazilian modernism. Settling in Sydney, Seidler became one of Australia’s foremost modernist architects. His output quickly shifted from deference to the work of his mentors Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer to formal experiments determined by the peculiarities of Australia’s geography and climate. He increasingly adapted elements that reflected his South American experiences. As his practice gained larger commissions, Seidler’s engagement with the Australian city was similarly affected. His urbanism – as it developed – ran counter to the Australian city’s Anglo-American trajectory that had shaped its form and character since the 1850s. This paper places Seidler’s interests in Brazil within the Australian context, where Iberico-American modernism was known and understood but appeared in isolated examples with little or no urban reference. Seidler, instead, proposed a new vision for the Australian city, one that extended Giedion, Sert and Leger’s wartime call for a new monumentality and combined architecture, art and landscape in a unified response: it was his answer to an urbanism for the New World.

Essay published by Philip Goad in Fabrications. The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand Volume 31, 2021 – Issue 1, Pages 54-84 /