Harry Seidler’s Sydney Towers: A System of Total Environments

Paola Favaro
Senior Lecturer
University of New South Wales, Sydney

In May 1967, the Austrian-born Sydney architect Harry Seidler (1923–2006) was invited in Brisbane to speak at the annual convention of the Australian Architectural Student Association. Responding to the convention’s theme “City Synthesis,” Seidler gave a memorable speech: “Everyone is complaining about the lack of planning and the ugliness of cities. Unfortunately, no one has ever seen or experienced a really good city – a city which takes full advantage of today’s better technology and design planning, a city planned so everybody could walk to work in less time than it takes to get there by car or subway. I have the ambition in my life, not to build buildings, but to build, if not cities, total environments."

In the same year Seidler’s first tower Australia Square (1961–1967) opened. What Seidler achieved with Australia Square and, in the following years, with MLC Centre (1971–1977) and Grosvenor Place (1982–1988) was arguably the design of total environments still as valid today as they were 50 years ago. This presentation elaborated on Seidler’s proposition and evaluated Seidler’s towers as an urban response to contemporary problems of density while still maintaining a connection with the city, people, and infrastructure.

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