The buildings of Potts Point are a unique and eclectic mix showcasing the talents of some of Sydney’s most noted architects.
Here, we take a look at just some of the faces behind the facades.
Colonial clout: John VergeArriving in Port Jackson in 1828, Englishman John Verge’s initial plans were more agricultural than architectural. Bringing his own sheep and shepherd to the colonies, Verge started out as a not-too-successful farmer. He hit his stride, though, when he moved into architecture, eventually counting prominent colonists and businessmen among his clients.
All three are classic examples of Regency Colonial architecture, but it’s Tusculum, in Manning Street, that ties the city’s architectural past with the present: today, it’s home to the NSW chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects.
Australia’s first female architect: Florence Mary Taylor
Potts Point resident Florence Mary Taylor is a key figure in Australian architectural history.
Born in England in 1879, Taylor became Australia’s first qualified female architect in 1904, after completing night school at Sydney Technical College. She was appointed chief draftsperson for John Burcham Clamp, who designed Hampton Court on Bayswater Rd and Wintergarden on Darlinghurst Rd. After some resistance, she gained full membership to the NSW Institute of Architects in 1923.
Florence and her husband also established Building Publishing, which specialised in producing journals for the building industry.
Taylor left few records, so it is uncertain whether she designed any buildings in her own neighbourhood. However, it’s believed she designed up to 100 homes throughout Sydney. She received an OBE in 1939 and a CBE in 1961, and died at her Potts Point home in 1969.
Dazzling Art Deco: Emil Sodersten
With its emphasis on symmetry and repeating patterns, Art Deco embodies style and elegance. Coming to prominence in the 1930s, the style is abundantly represented in Potts Point.
One architect who made his mark on Potts Point was Emil Sodersten, arguably Australia’s leading Art Deco designer. Born in Balmain to a Swedish father and Australian mother,
Sodersten worked for the architects Ross and Rowe while studying at Sydney Technical College.
As well as designing the Canberra War Memorial, Sodersten created Wychbury and Werrington in Manning Street, along with Kinglsey Hall and Birtley Towers in Elizabeth Bay.
Sodersten served in the Air Force during World War II, and while he continued his architectural work after the war his pace slowed. He died in 1961.
The Modernist king: Harry Seidler
Harry Seidler looms large in Sydney’s architectural history. Arguably the country’s most famous Modernist architect, Seidler’s design portfolio includes more than 180 buildings.
As a teenager, Seidler fled his native Austria for England in 1938 after the German invasion. He was placed in an internment camp and was then moved to Quebec, Canada, where he was released to study architecture at university. He earned first-class honours in 1944.
In 1948, the 24-year-old Harry followed his parents to Sydney, initially only planning to stay while the house he’d designed for his mother – Rose Seidler House – was built. But the home’s reputation brought him many clients, and he decided to stay.
Seidler would go on to design some of Sydney’s most iconic buildings: Australia Square, Blues Point Tower and the MLC Centre.
In the 1960s he built the twin Gemini towers in Potts Point and lived for a time at nearby Ithaca Gardens in Elizabeth Bay, also his creation. The twin buildings are currently under threat of demolition, as City of Sydney planning rules do not recognise them as heritage buildings.
With so many unique buildings, from so many eras, it’s little wonder there are so many great architects represented in our area.
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