Seidler's last stand

Monday 01 Feb 2010

Sydney's Alliance Française Centre shows all the markings of the master architect

Born in Vienna on 25 June 1923, Harry Seidler arrived in Australia in 1948 and went on to become one of the country’s most awarded architects. He received Australia’s top architectural prize, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) Gold Medal in 1976 and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal in 1996. He is, perhaps, best known for Australia Square, the tallest lightweight concrete building in the world at the time it was built.

The thirteen storey Alliance Française Centre building on Clarence Street, Sydney is Seidler’s last commercial building and displays many of his signature motifs, from the curved forms of the glass façade to the circular granite stairway at the entrance. The stairway links three floors and creates a natural flow between the café, classrooms and media centre. The street level entrance brings you into a two storey void which houses the Parisian style café and the Reception Centre. The flowing façade is interrupted briefly by indentations created by balconies on a number of floors which add to the visual texture of the building. Vertical external louvers minimise the effect of morning sun.

The centre features fifteen classrooms which are equipped with the latest technology for language teaching. The thirteenth floor provides open space with a balcony and views of Sydney, offering an ideal setting for conferences, exhibitions and receptions. The lower ground floor has been designed as a flexible multi-purpose space that can be easily reconfigured and divided into smaller classes or opened up as a public space for recitals and lectures. The granite open tread circular staircase links this floor to the street level café as well as the media centre on level 1.

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