Skip to main content

To help keep our visitors and staff safe, please book your spot before visiting.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Harry Seidler part two

In their own words

Recorded 1972

Harry Seidler part two
Audio: 2 minutes

The house I built for my parents, about a year after it was finished, it won the Sir John Sulman medal for architecture, and that really gave me a great boost in terms of suddenly becoming known. Both this interest in the buildings that I was doing and the fact that I was having success – and one must remember, in those days, it was terribly difficult even for an architect of Breuer’s standing to get jobs in New York, to get a house to build and here I was almost swamped with opportunities – and that’s one of the things that really endeared this country to me. Elsewhere in the world, I think, one has to have grey hair before anyone trusts you with their money to build them anything. And here was a man in his early twenties and people were wanting me to actually build things for them and I thought, ‘Well, how marvellous, how outgoing for these people to have this sudden trust in somebody obviously young and inexperienced’. I think it was probably that, and, of course, the marvellous climate and the easy way of living that, you know, made me love this place.

What did upset me very much though were the obstacles that were put in the way of my work by the authorities. Almost right from the start, every time I designed a house and submitted it to local council it was refused on the grounds of design. The term was, it was disallowed ‘in the public interest’, and it did not fit into the pleasantness of the neighbourhood or the amenities of the area, and so on. That just made me see red. And the only recourse was to a court of law in those days, you had to go to Land and Valuation Court. And that became quite a routine.

The almost embarrassing thing was the amount of press publicity given to it and I started to have a, you know, the reputation of somebody who fights councils more than builds houses. There is something, of course, in the Australian make-up that cheers when an individual can stand up successfully against authority.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Harry Seidler is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Related people

Harry Seidler AC OBE

Related information

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery

Plan your visit

Timed ticketing, location, accessibility and amenities

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency