Harry Seidler’s Umbrella

Joe Rollo

Harry Seidler's Umbrella
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Harry Seidler’s Umbrella

Joe Rollo

Harry Seidler’s Umbrella is an incisive and personal collection of writings on architecture and design by writer and editor Joe Rollo. From an up-close account of Jørn Utzon’s re-engagement with the Sydney Opera House and a poetic rendering of the design and making of the landscape at TarraWarra Estate and Museum of Art, to encounters with Harry Seidler and a walk through the multi-billion dollar Victorian Desalination Plant, Joe Rollo opens readers' eyes to an exciting way of looking at the built world.

Written in the easy, straightforward and engaging language for which he has become known, the book brings clarity and passion to considerations of the problems and pleasures of looking at architecture and design in Australia.


The first thing that strikes you about this book is its sheer beauty. Joe Rollo got his friend and graphic designer Garry Emery to design the book and together they agonised over it. It’s a lovely object to hold, to open and to look at – and it is so intentionally. Which is fitting: a book that is an homage to Australian architecture by one of Australia’s foremost architectural critics, and that ranges over two decades, should be a beautifully designed object just like the buildings Rollo describes.

Rollo is a self-confessed architecture nerd; he lives and breathes the built form and he delights in the way that beautiful and well-designed buildings can lift the heart and transform a city. Almost every morning he has coffee in Spring Street with his mate Peter Elliott who took out five prizes at last month’s architecture awards for his design of the members’ annexe at Victoria’s Parliament House, and I’m sure every morning they discuss, tear apart and praise the latest projects going up.

This collection of Joe’s best pieces gives you a real sense of the history of Australia’s modern architecture; they are short, sharp and to the point and what’s more, they are very evocative and perceptive. You’ll come away with a better understanding of the buildings that you walk past every day and of why they matter. The buildings he covers range from the magnificent and iconic, The Sydney Opera House, to the building that will either be an expensive folly or an indication of great foresight, the Victorian desalination plant. As for Harry Seidler’s umbrella – you’ll have to read about that yourself!

Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings.

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