What happens to firms when their star architects die?

General tower by zaha hadid architects
General Tower by Zaha Hadid Architects / © Alex Baxter

The great architectural feats of our time are born of the fantastical visions of a genius, lording over teams of worker ants who turn their dreams into steel, bricks and mortar. Or are they?

Six years before he died, Australia’s famed modernist architect Harry Seidler gathered his colleagues around him. He told them that he wanted to do more lecturing and architectural photography around the world, and this meant he would be taking a step back from the business he had led for more than 40 years.

Harry Seidler & Associates successfully continued on after Seidler died in 2006, but this was not without trials for those that remained.

‘One of the things we suffered from for a while, once Harry was gone, was we effectively didn’t exist,’ says the principal architect at the firm, Greg Holman.

‘You’re still there … in fact nothing much had really changed.

‘We were still sitting here delivering a 55-story building in Brisbane and other various very large projects throughout Australia.’

At first, Holman says, people would ring the office and be surprised that there was anyone answering the phone, as if they too had vanished with Seidler’s passing. […]