Architecture Responding To Nature
Harry Seidler


Harry Seidler

©Harry Seidler & Associates

In my early training, and especially in studies at Harvard under Gropius, I was imbued with the idea that architecture should follow a clear methodology of approach in arriving at a design; that it was not orientated toward ever aiming to become fashionable. The social needs of a building change from one decade to another, people want different things. Technology takes enormous strides and therefore what may be plausible and perfectly reasonable at one time, decades later becomes old-fashioned. The third that also changes with time is people's perception of what they consider beautiful or viable visually. The early Moderns had a very pristine almost minimalist approach, very morally orientated towards social needs, and so on. And the tendency today is to embellish, to create greater visual enjoyment, but that only as long as it, at the same time, answers the sort of three-way simultaneous design process as it was called. Does it respond to the present day social needs, does it respond to pushing the means of technology to its absolute cutting edge of development, and is it the imagery that is really that which, as it were, entices people most of the time. Now if it answers all these things, without emphasis on any one at the expense of another, but simultaneously and in a parallel sort of way, then maybe one can say that one is doing a building that is predictably destined to have a long, valid life. And that's the big difference between something that is built based on fashion, which falls by the wayside and that's what I quarrel so much about the kind of superficial tendencies that have come into being in architecture. Suddenly people thought it was clever to bring about a kind of looking back. It ends up in sort of cliché images, appliqué arches and pediments and all this nonsense of the past which has nothing to do with the concerns, either technologically, constructionally or aesthetically that should be our concern today.


Hong Kong Club & Offices. The Building & Cenotaph

©Harry Seidler & Associates

So, based on that, if I were to describe how this simultaneous design process was applied to two projects, I would have to say in Hong Kong that the thing that made the most sense, given the program of providing a club at the base of a building - because the need was to replace an existing and old, very loved club in the middle of Hong Kong - to make a new building answering the club's very specific requirements and needs; a limited site admittedly but the great freedom and openness inside was something that the club committee wanted. The thing that made it reality was the fact that it had the potential of becoming quite a tall building, twenty storeys or so of office space. Now the developers said "We'll build you a new club as long as you allow us to build the maximum number of office floors on top of you." The club said "fine, but we don't want to know that there's an office building on top. We want the entrance just where it always was, we want a balcony for the Governor to take the salute on Armistice Day". So the solution we found simply made the offices fly over the top of the club in order to not have obstruction or internal columns come down through the club. We made the entrance to the offices on a side street rather than on the main entrance.

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