Throughout the 20th century European immigration added richness, texture and vibrance to the fabric of Sydney’s cultural landscape.
Among those seeking a new home in Australia were many talented architects, some of whom left their mark on Potts Point. We take a look at a few of the mid-century modernist gems they created.
Born in the Crimea in 1900, Aaron Bolot immigrated to Australia aged 11. He studied architecture at Brisbane’s Central Technical College, graduating in 1926 with the Queensland Institute of Architects Gold Medal for best student.
Bolot soon moved to Sydney, where he set up a practice in Pitt St. During the 1930s he worked on numerous theatre designs throughout NSW, including the Randwick Ritz.
In 1941, Bolot joined Australia’s war effort and served overseas. After the war, he resumed his profession and designed one of his most notable buildings: 17 Wylde St, Potts Point. Completed in 1951, the building was one of Sydney’s first curved apartment blocks. It was also one of the first buildings in the city to utilise a segmented radial plan, and Bolot’s design was such that it maximised the aspect and space of each apartment. All 38 apartments enjoy unique parquetry and tiling, thanks to a scarcity of available materials during construction.
The building’s importance as an “outstanding example of International Style cooperative housing” was recognised with an award for Enduring Architecture at the 2017 National Architecture Awards. The building is also on the Register of the National Estate.
On arriving in Sydney in 1938, the Hungarian-born Hugo Stossel took a position as a project manager for the construction company Cody & Willis. At the same time, he also took on private projects, one of which was the design of Australia’s first prefabricated steel house at Ryde, in 1946.
Following World War II, Stossel became prominent in the country’s modernist movement, designing several modernist homes in North Shore suburbs for fellow immigrants, including Eisner House at Warrawee.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Stossel moved into the design of apartment buildings. Among these projects are the Bayview Apartments in Roslyn Gardens, St Ursula Apartments in Onslow Ave, and The Chimes in Macleay Street.
St Ursula’s exemplifies the modernist aesthetic. Sitting opposite Elizabeth Bay House, the building’s classic mid-century curved design takes full advantage of its corner position by the harbour. Floor to ceiling windows let in both the light and the views.
Views also feature prominently at Bayview Apartments, with Stossel designing a wide V-shaped building to offer panoramic views of the surrounding neighbourhood.
Harry Seidler is often referred to as the father of Australian modernism, and with good reason. During his career, he designed over 180 buildings and gifted Sydney with some of its most distinctive mid-century treasures.
Some of Seidler’s key apartment blocks are dotted around the eastern suburbs. One such building is Ithaca Gardens. Built in 1960, the apartment block features a striking angular entrance canopy and sweeping harbour views. The building, which Seidler and his wife Penelope called home for seven years, won the NSW Architecture and Arts Award the same year it was completed.
More local buildings by European architects
The area is home to other mid-century buildings by European-born architects:
- Oceana: One of the first modern high-rise blocks to pierce the Elizabeth Bay sky. Designed by post-war Polish immigrant Teodore Frewilling, who changed his name to Theodore Fry.
- Riviera: Right on the tip of Elizabeth Bay, Riviera was designed in the 1960s by Frank Hoffer, a Hungarian immigrant who also designed the Park Regis Apartments.
- Victoria Towers: This Victoria Street block was designed by Polish-born Henry Kurzer. Bondi’s Hakoah Club and the quintessentially mid-century Latin Quarter restaurant in Pitt St were also his designs.
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Photo credits: Wikipedia