A landmark position on the edge of Rushcutters Bay Park and a sublime modernist form – Elizabeth Gardens is an understated gem of an apartment building.
Mid-century modern living
Elizabeth Bay apartment building Elizabeth Gardens was designed by architect Hugo Stossel in the international style in 1955. Characterised by its use of flat surfaces, often alternated with panels of glass, the absence of ornament and colour, and the use of industrial materials, this style of architecture developed in France, Germany and the Netherlands after the First World War and spread across the globe. By the 1950s, it was the dominant architectural style worldwide, which is why Elizabeth Gardens is so very evocative of its time. It was constructed out of solid brick in 1958, and its first residents moved in the following year.
The building’s exterior is a well-preserved example of mid-century modernist design, but its south-eastern façade has undergone one major change. As hard as it is to imagine today, Stossel’s design did not include balustrades on the balconies. The apartments facing Rushcutters Bay had doors that opened onto balcony spaces without any form of railing or barrier. One of the building’s early occupants reports that the balcony balustrades were added one by one by individual apartment owners over time.
The interiors of the Elizabeth Gardens apartments differed from one another, presumably reflecting the individual tastes of their first owners. Many had mosaic or finger parquetry flooring (a classic mid-century floor covering) in some or all of the rooms, and some apartments still have this original flooring today. Bathrooms were tiled in all shades of the rainbow, from muted neutral tones like beiges, browns and greys to colourful lemons, pinks and blues.
The important Australian architect you’ve probably never heard of
While he may not be a household name like his contemporary Harry Seidler, Elizabeth Gardens’s designer Hugo Stossel was nevertheless a significant Australian modernist architect.
Born in Hungary, he trained in Rome and Vienna before leaving Europe to escape Nazism. He arrived in Sydney in 1939. After the war, he became an Australian citizen and designed a handful of modernist houses for fellow emigres, including two here in the eastern suburbs. The houses were all distinctly geometric and included that modernist hallmark – open living spaces.
From the late 1950s to the 1960s, apartment blocks in Elizabeth Bay, Darling Point and Potts Point were a significant part of Stossel’s work. In 1951, his apartment building St Ursula, in Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay, was completed. Broadwaters and Yarranabbe Gardens, both in Darling Point, came in 1958. Elizabeth Gardens was opened to residents in 1959. More eastern suburbs apartment buildings, including The Chimes, Macleay Gardens and Denison in Potts Point, the Tor and Bayview in Roslyn Gardens, Elizabeth Bay, and Kamilaroi and Eastbourne Tower, Darling Point, followed in the 1960s.
After his prolific career in Australia, which included the design of hotels, factories, schools, resorts, and office blocks, as well as residential buildings, Stossel moved to England, where he died in 2002 at the age of 96. Only now is his invaluable contribution to Australian architecture being recognised. We’re fortunate to have so many of his buildings in our neighbourhood.
Elizabeth Gardens today
Perfectly positioned at 1 Holdsworth Avenue, overlooking the sparkling waters and lush parkland of Rushcutters Bay with its playing fields, tennis courts, marina and café, Elizabeth Gardens remains a highly sought-after address today. The building’s residents enjoy the peace of parkside living as well as the convenience of being just minutes away from the eateries of Elizabeth Bay Road and the supermarkets and shops at the Edgecliff Centre and Eastpoint Food Fair, as well as Potts Point, Kings Cross and the CBD.
Elizabeth Gardens, like so many of the mid-century apartment buildings in Elizabeth Bay, Potts Point and Darling Point, is the company title. It is home to 12 one-bedroom, 19 two-bedroom and two three-bedroom apartments. The apartments enjoy 2.72-metre-high ceilings and abundant natural light and harbour breezes, thanks to the fact that the building stands well clear of its neighbours.
Elizabeth Gardens residents clearly love where they live. Domain reports the average Elizabeth Gardens owner-occupier has lived there for almost 14 and a half years, and 70 per cent of them have lived there for more than a decade. The building is so tightly held that, according to Domain, the last time an Elizabeth Gardens apartment was on the market was in 2020. I had the privilege of selling a two-bedroom apartment there in 2014. Apartments come up for rent more frequently, with 60 per cent of the building’s units let out and 40 per cent lived in by owner-occupiers.
Thinking of buying or selling in Elizabeth Bay, Potts Point or Kings Cross? Get in touch with my team today.