Architectural model, 'Interbau Moscow', designed and made by Harry Seidler and Associates, Australia, 1994
This model creates a house designed by Harry Seidler for display at a housing exhibition planned for Moscow during the late-1990s. The model represents Seidler's mature cottage architecture as well as his devotion to the ideals of Modern architecture as represented by display houses designed by its seminal architects.
The proposed Moscow Interbau was an attempt to recreate the idealism and creativity of the Berlin Interbau exhibition of 1957, when several of Modernism's founding fathers provided designs. These included Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Alvar Aalto. Three decades previously in 1927 the Modern movement in architecture effectively announced itself with the Weissenhofsiedlung housing exhibition at Stuttgart. Le Corbusier, Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe were then at the start of their careers and the Stuttgart exhibition helped establish their reputations.
The design Seidler provided for the Moscow edition is similar to that of the Meares residence in its split level design and curved steel roof. However the planned Moscow site did not create restrictions like those responded to in the Meares design and the Moscow design is more symmetrical in plan with four half-level floors opening off a central top-lit staircase.
Seidler's architectural statement concludes with an endorsement of his design of split levels and only partially enclosed spaces: 'The architectural aim of the house is to create a free-flowing spatial totality without corridors yet give each area a sense of containment due to the use of split levels. Moving around the house, one would merely sense extended areas beyond, without creating any blunt openness. This is felt to be the most important and valid architectural language of our time - the subtle orchestration of SPACE'.
Charles Pickett, Curator, Design and built environment.
This model was designed and made by Harry Seidler and Associates. Harry Seidler's letter offering the donation to the PHM states that this model was 'made in our office'. It is of interest that the accompanying correspondence suggests that another model was made in Moscow from Seidler's designs and exhibited there during 1995.
Harry Seidler (1923-2006) was born in Vienna and fled Nazism via England, Canada and the USA where at Harvard University he was a student of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. Seidler visited Sydney in 1948 to design a home for his parents. His intended return to the USA was halted by numerous requests to design houses similar to Rose Seidler house.
Seidler was one of a generation of new arrivals who internationalised an Anglophile outpost. Another was Dutch engineer Dick Dusseldorp who engaged Seidler to design numerous projects for his Lend Lease construction company. Among these were sophisticated but affordable apartment blocks which lent glamour and liveability to inner city living. Others included major urban redevelopments designed around office towers; Australian Square was the first of these. Seidler also found success internationally, his Australian Embassy in Paris the best-known of several off-shore commissions.
No architect has had a greater impact on Sydney through both his own work and its influence on others. Although Harry Seidler's Modernism was shaped by Europe and the US, Sydney also formed his work and his social presence. Often caricatured as a doctrinaire modernist, Seidler tailored most of his work to Sydney¬?s climate and topography. Some of his best buildings ¬? Blues Point Tower, Australia Square to name but two - were also his most controversial. As a polemicist, Seidler was less compromising but Sydney¬?s urban culture benefited from his scorn of the second-rate in design and decision-making. His donation of this model, among others, was typical of his generosity to the Powerhouse and the arts community.
In addition to numerous awards received locally, such as the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, in 1996 Seidler was the recipient of the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal.
In 1994 Harry Seidler was invited by the International Academy of Architecture to submit designs for a housing exhibition to be built in Moscow. The IAA is a non-government, non-profit organisation based in Sofia, Bulgaria which promotes architectural education and communication. Seidler was a member of the IAA from its foundation in 1987.
The Moscow exhibition was inspired by the Interbau exhibition of 1957, which saw many of the leading architects of the time design houses and apartments for a bombed out area of West Berlin. As well as urban renewal, the 1957 Interbau provided a showcase for new work by Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Oscar Niemeyer among others and was highly influential in promoting Modern domestic architecture in the West. The Interbau estate is still extant and is a sought-after address in Berlin.
The IAA's hope in 1994 was to create a similar Interbau exhibition in Moscow as part of another urban renewal project. To this end several architects were invited to submit housing designs for the site; models were made from these designs at 1:200 scale which were displayed in Moscow during January of 1995. It was hoped that the Moscow city government would support and partly fund the housing project, however this does not appear to have happened and Seidler's design was not built.