Harry Seidler’s Australia Square:
Sydney’s First Modern Skyscraper

Tue, Sep 5, 2023
Image by Max Dupain, courtesy of Vladimir Belogolovsky. © Penelope Seidler.

Completed in 1967, six years before Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House, Australia Square was the first truly modern skyscraper on the continent and, arguably, the world’s tallest lightweight concrete building. The 50-story cylindrical tower once stood alone as the focal point of a full city-block development in Central Sydney and with a popular plaza that made the complex the first successful large-scale commercial project in Australia. Vienna-born emigré architect Harry Seidler (1923-2006) brought his Harvard GSD and Black Mountain College training and experience in the offices of Marcel Breuer and Oscar Niemeier to his adoptive Australia where he became the country's leading postwar modernist from 1948 on. Australia Square also began Seidler’s creative collaboration with Italian structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, with whom he worked on a number of large projects.

Vladimir Belogolovsky, author of Harry Seidler: LifeWork (Rizzoli, 2014) and curator of Harry Seidler: Painting Toward Architecture will discuss Australia Square’s design and construction principles and inherent circular geometry, placing Seidler's first iconic tower in the context of four other key projects with similar concrete technology and geometric principles: the Trade Group Offices in Canberra (1974), MLC Centre in Sydney (1975), the Australian Embassy in Paris (1977), and the Hong Kong Club (1984). After his talk, Belogolovsky will be joined in dialogue with Tom Leslie, author of Beauty's Rigor: Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi (2017).

Vladimir Belogolovsky

Curator and critic Vladimir Belogolovsky has produced over 50 international exhibitions, including the world tour of Harry Seidler: Painting Toward Architecture (32 cities in 20 countries, 2012-23), Architects’ Voices SeriesEmilio Ambasz: Architecture Toward Nature, GreenHouse, and exhibitions at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Educated in Ukraine and the US, since 2010 he has been heading his New York-based nonprofit Curatorial Project. Belogolovsky writes for ArchDailyArquitectura VivaAZUREArchitect’s NewspaperSTIRworld, and World-Architects. His books include Harry Seidler: LifeWorkChina Dialogues, Imagine Buildings Floating Like CloudsConversations with ArchitectsSoviet Modernism: 1955-1985, and Architectural Guides on New York and Chicago. He taught design studio at Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2018-19 and has lectured at universities and museums in more than thirty countries.

Thomas Leslie, FAIA

Thomas Leslie is Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he researches the integration of building sciences and arts, both historically and in contemporary practice. He is the author of Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934 and its sequel Chicago Skyscrapers, 1934-1986 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2013 and 2023).


Vladimir Belogolovsky's presentation begins after introductions by Museum Director Carol Willis. Prof. Thomas Leslie afterward engages in conversation with Belogolovsky.