The Blues Point Tower is one of the most contentious buildings in Sydney. It was designed by Viennese-born architect Harry Seidler and built in collaboration with Dutch-born building entrepreneur Dick Dusseldorp, who helmed the construction firm Lend Lease. Together, these two men, with their European sensibilities, set about reshaping Sydney in the post-war world. Blues Point Tower was their second collaboration after Ithaca Gardens in Elizabeth Bay.

The base of Blues Point Tower in 1976 (Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection: 80164)
The base of Blues Point Tower in 1976 (City of Sydney Archives, Graeme Andrews ‘Working Harbour’ Collection: 80164)

The Blues Point Tower was an echo of a much larger planning scheme for Blues Point, which had been devised by Harry Seidler in 1957 on behalf of the McMahons Point and Lavender Bay Progress Association. His scheme was in response to North Sydney Council’s plans to rezone the peninsula for industrial use.

Seidler’s modernist scheme was replete with eight high-rise towers (including a hotel) as well as several mid and low-rise apartment blocks, all separated by open space. It was intended to accommodate up to 15,000 people. See here for a plan of Seidler’s 1957 scheme.

The scheme never went ahead. But one element of it did, in the form of a 25-storey tower right on the tip of the point. The site had been envisaged for the hotel in the earlier scheme, but in 1959, construction started on Sydney’s first skyscraper apartment block.

Blues Point Tower has been derided as the ugliest building in Sydney, but it did have an egalitarian intent, in that all the apartments were orientated to have harbour views and  adequate light from two directions. Importantly, the apartments were designed for families and included built-in laundries to meet their needs. It was also the first building installed with sprinklers for fire mitigation. Seidler always maintained it was his best building. See here for Seidler’s scrapbooks featuring the Blues Point Tower.

Aerial view of Sydney Harbour looking west, showing the Blues Point Tower all on its lonesome, 1991 (Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection: 80586)
Aerial view of Sydney Harbour looking west, showing the Blues Point Tower all on its lonesome, 1991 (City of Sydney Archives, Graeme Andrews ‘Working Harbour’ Collection: 80586)

Although apartment living had been a feature of urban Sydney since the 1920s and 30s, the post-war period saw an increase in the city’s population, who were demanding more housing. This population boom coincided with an increase in private ownership of apartments following the abolition of rent control in 1954. On the scene to meet the demand were a number of large property development companies, including Lend Lease and Reid Murray. These large companies managed the finance and construction of Sydney’s new apartment developments, along with their promotion and sale.

The Blues Point Tower also has another claim to fame, in that it was the building that innovated and brought strata title to the rest of the world, a blessing or curse depending on your experiences of apartment living. In fact, Dick Dusseldorp played a leading role in the introduction of strata law. He engaged a lawyer to expedite the process, arguing that the price of apartments would drop with the introduction of this new type of land title system. Strata title allowed for the purchase of individual apartments rather than a share in company, as per company title, or tenants in common, which had been common previously. With strata, owners had freehold title of airspace and communal responsibility for the maintenance of the building and its grounds. The Conveyancing (Strata Titles) Act was passed in 1961.

Read more about Blues Point Tower and apartment living more generally in the book Homes in the sky: apartment living in Australia, published in 2007.