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Harry Seidler collection

Designs and photographs from Australia's best known modernist architect.

MLC Centre, Sydney

The MLC Centre conceptualised the notion of integrating generous public space with office and retail areas, parking and open plazas. The office tower itself, completed in 1975, occupies only 20% of the large city site, which was an amalgamation of 23 individual properties, including the historic Hotel Australia. The rest of the space is largely given over to public use. In 1983, The MLC Centre won the prestigious RAIA Sir John Sulman Medal, having already won the RAIA Civic Design Award in 1981.

“To counter the results of a high development, the scheme aims to create open space in the congested centre of the city. The resulting privately owned land given over to permanent public use compensates for the intensification of land use. Useful and inviting open areas for the enjoyment of people have always been the essence of life in cities throughout the ages” (Harry Seidler, notes, PXB 237)

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The large complex fronts onto busy Martin Place, Castlereagh St and King St, which is a hub for city workers and lunchtime crowds. The usable open space features a podium of plazas on various levels which open out onto the surrounding streets, with shopping arcades, a theatre, and outdoor restaurants at its centre. A circular open well admits daylight to the floors below. Overall, there is a fluidity of movement through and across the site on three levels.

The tower itself has a rigid load bearing core of vertically poured cross walled concrete. Its exterior is carried by eight heavily loaded massive columns which change in plan, shape and area from bottom to top to support the weight. For a structure of this height, there is a great need for stiffness against lateral winds. This is achieved by turning the columns outward at the base and gradually becoming flush with the building façade at the top.

Internationally renowned engineer Pier Luigi Nervi was involved as structural consultant on the project. He had previously been the structural engineer on Australia Square.

The MLC Centre continues to be a thriving hub in the city centre, offering a seamless integration of office, retail and open space in the busy Sydney CBD.

For over 50 years, Harry Seidler produced distinctive and bold modern architecture, including houses, apartments, office and commercial buildings, both in Australia and overseas. He lectured and travelled extensively, and was a tireless and out-spoken advocate of modern architecture. Often controversial, his architectural journey spanned decades of commercial and critical success. He died on 9 March 2006, aged 82.


This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of Penelope Seidler AM and the late Harry Seidler AC OBE.