25 June 1923 - 9 March 2006

It occurred to me after I posted earlier today on the planned high-rise Aqua that perhaps my impetus for the post partially stemmed from the recent passing of Australian architect Harry Seidler, whose numerous apartment towers in his home country share more than a passing resemblance to the new Chicago project.

Seidler "passed away peacefully the morning of 9 March 2006 at his Sydney home after a long illness, following...a severe stroke on 25 April 2005." Things Magazine links to some recollections from the Australian press who refer to him as the "country's most celebrated architect."

Internationally, he is known most for his gently-curving apartment plans, setting a precedent for projects like Renzo Piano's Aurora Place development. A side-by-side comparison of a couple of Seidler's high-rises illustrates the creative use of curving terraces and steady balance of solid and void in the exterior wall that elevates an otherwise mundane building type into a celebrated "happening" on the Sydney skyline.

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L-R: Horizon and Cove Apartments

The difference between buildings like the Horizon and Cove Apartments and Aqua is in terms of construction and repitition. Even though relatively recent, the repetition of curving forms in the two Seidler buildings can most likely be justified economically, such as the reuse of formwork from floor to floor (or every other floor, it appears).

In Studio Gang's project, this repetition is abandoned in favor of slight variations from floor to floor. The use of computers in construction these days means that many processes don't benefit economically from repetition. For example, if a computer is used to create a metal panel shape, it's the same for the CPU to make every one the same as it is to make every one different. In the case of concrete formwork, the architect can be creative and make sure the same forms are reused by keeping consistent radii across the curves, while still varying the curves from floor to floor.

In terms of Aqua, this technical stuff is speculation, but what I'm trying to say is that designs like it might become more prevalent as architects and contractors become more comfortable with the ability to build designs economically that weren't even thinkable in the past. And in many ways Seidler is a like-minded predecessor to Gang, as he pushed Australian architecture into new directions with his expressive and emotive designs, not settling for the standard orthogonal expression that's supposedly the most economical choice available.


  1. The origins/inspirations for Seidler's and Gang's designs are very different, but interestingly, there is a resemblance there, nonetheless.
    PS: I am commenting on the post from the time I did not know anything about Seidler. Since then I wrote a book on his work and curated some exhibits.
    Vladimir Belogolovsky


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