‘I can only do Modern Architecture. If I can’t do [that] I’d rather do none at all.’ – Harry Seidler (p82)

And those words neatly sum up Harry Seidler’s uncompromising approach to life as told by award-winning writer, Helen O’Neill, in A Singular Vision: Harry Seidler.

A Singular Vision: Harry Seidler is an in-depth, comprehensive and sensitive biography which provides intimate insights into Australia’s most internationally recognised and iconic architect. Quite simply, it is a beautiful book and I’m not the only one to think so. A Singular Vision: Harry Seidler was short-listed for the 2015 National Biography Awards. This lavish and stylish book was also short-listed for the Australian Book Design Awards for its design and concept.

Vienna-born Harry Seidler was lured to Australia when his parents commissioned him to build them a house. It was the only way they could convince him to come to Australia. And so the Rose Seidler House was born with its jaw-dropping bushland views. The house was featured on the cover of Home Beautiful in 1951, won the coveted Sir John Sulman Medal from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and has been in the Australian collective consciousness ever since.

Helen O’Neill paints an intimate and detailed vision of one of Australia’s pre-eminent architects who established post-war modern design in Australia. Drawing on Harry Seidler’s diaries, journals, handwritten notes and sketches, and a bounty of photographs, the reader is soon drawn into the intimacies and intricacies of Harry Seidler’s life.

The simple yet striking cover of A Singular Vision: Harry Seidler beckons you inside just like Seidler’s buildings. The level of detail is breathtaking. The reader has the opportunity to step into Harry’s past to discover his early life, from his school days in Vienna stopping to watch construction work on the way home from school, to his internment in Canada during the Second World War and his subsequent journey to Australia. Helen traces the course of Harry Seidler’s sometimes controversial career and his personal life. A Singular Vision: Harry Seidler gives an in-depth look into the controversy, the long-lasting and passionate marriage of Harry and Penelope Seidler, and the buildings that bettered our man-made world.

A Singular Vision: Harry Seidler will appeal to the architecture world, art and design enthusiasts, and all who love a good story. The single minded zeal Harry Seidler had for his profession is apparent throughout the book and the reader gains insights into the way Seidler viewed the world, from his prolific collection of parking fines to his public support of Jorn Utzon for his controversial design of the Sydney Opera House.

I started this review with a quote from Harry Seidler and it is only fitting, that he should have the last word too –

‘Architecture is the highest form of art by definition. The mother of all arts it’s said. A lot of people do buildings. That doesn’t mean they put up architecture. There’s a huge difference. And that missing link is, is it a work of art?’ – Harry Seidler (p200)

Helen O’Neill is a British-born Australian-based freelance writer whose words have travelled across the world. She has worked as a journalist for over 25 years winning awards in science and health journalism, a Walkley nomination and becoming the Australian Society of Travel Writers’ Travel Writer of the Year. Helen serves on the Board of Directors of the Australian Society of Authors  and Copyright Agency. Helen currently lives in Sydney.



For news about Helen O’Neill click here.


(Photo courtesy of Chris Court)