Gifts support Judith Neilson Chair and Seidler Chair

Judith NeilsonUNSW has attracted major philanthropic support from two of Sydney’s most respected names in art and design to boost architecture education and improve the lives of displaced people.

An “extraordinary act of philanthropy” is how Professor Alec Tzannes described Judith Neilson’s $10 million endowment to the Faculty of Built Environment.

“Her generous gift to UNSW represents a groundbreaking commitment of global significance for the research, teaching and public
debate of architecture with the specific social purpose of improving the lives of displaced and disadvantaged people,” the Dean said.

The Judith Neilson Chair in Architecture will take the lead in researching the design of affordable housing for the tens of millions of people displaced by natural disasters, geo-political conflicts, and economic and environmental factors.

Ms Neilson – founder and director of Sydney’s White Rabbit Gallery, which is home to one of the world’s most significant collections of Chinese contemporary art – said she was motivated to invest in research to investigate how architecture and design could be used as a powerful force for change.

“We have massive populations who move to temporary housing that they end up living in for years and that in no way meets their needs. Giving people whose lives have been shattered the opportunity to live in affordable dwellings that have been thoughtfully and sustainably designed with enduring materials can help improve their quality of life.”

The donation closely followed the announcement of the Seidler Chair in the Practice of Architecture, funded by a gift from architect,
businesswoman and arts patron Dr Penelope Seidler. UNSW’s Pritzker Prize–winning lecturer Professor Glenn Murcutt is the inaugural recipient of the Chair.

“We salute Penelope’s philanthropy in funding the first endowed Chair of its kind in Australia dedicated to advancing design education through leadership in professional practice,” said Professor Tzannes.

“This investment is recognition at the highest level of our commitment to excellence in design studio education and to ensuring our students have access to the best practitioners and inspiring teachers.”

Dr Seidler, whose husband, Harry Seidler, was UNSW’s first Visiting Professor in Architecture in 1980, has also funded a PhD scholarship and an international design studio for graduating students.

"It is important for me to ensure the next generation of architects has as many opportunities as possible to learn from the best," Dr Seidler said.

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