UNSW Receives Million Dollar Endowment for Architecture

Friday, December 19th, 2014
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Penelope Seidler
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The teaching of architecture at UNSW has received a boost with the endowment of a new chair and scholarship program.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has received a generous donation from one of Australia’s most prominent architectural figures for the establishment of a new chair in the field.

Penelope Seidler has donated over $1 million to the University of NSW to establish the Seidler Chair in the Practice of Architecture.

The first practising architect to assume the the chair has already been selected. Glenn Marcutt is an award-winning architect whose works include the Bowali Visitor Information Centre in Kakadu National Park, as well as the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Art Centre at Riversdale.

British-born Murcutt was the recipient of the Alvar Aalto Medal in 1992, the Pritzker prize in 2002 and the AIA Gold Medal in 2009. He already teaches as a professor at the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment, and has been commended for his “exceptional design intellect” by faculty dean Professor Alec Tzannes.

In addition to founding the Seidler chair the over-million dollar donation made by Seidler will be used to fund a PhD scholarship and the Seidler International Studio, which give undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in a design program for two weeks overseas.

Seidler said that her motivations for making the generous donation were concerns about architectural education –  particularly given the likelihood of higher tuition fees under the Abbot government.

She also said that she hoped the new chair would provide students with exposure to architecture as a working profession beyond the confines of a university setting, noting that the discipline is more than just an academic pursuit.

Seidler has enjoyed a lifelong association with the architectural profession, having joined Seidler and Associates in 1964 as an architect and financial manager.

Her husband, Austrian-born Harry Seidler, was considered to be one of the leading practitioners of Modernist architecture in Australia prior to his passing in 2005. Harry Seidler was also the first visiting professor to be appointed to the UNSW school of architecture over three decades ago.

Penelope Seidler also hopes that her donation may help remedy some of her discontents about the state of modern architecture, decrying inadequate training in aesthetics and design for students, an overreliance on computer design, and the dismal quality of today’s residential housing.

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