Co-operative Building Multi-Home Unit No.2,
‘Westbridge’, 30-40 Blues Point Road
Before the introduction of Strata Title for flats in 1961, which allowed each unit to be sold and owned individually, blocks of flats generally had a single owner – a person or a company – who then rented out each unit as landlord.
However, in 1945 co-operative building societies were able to construct apartment buildings and distribute ownership among the residents. Groups called Urban Co-operative Multi-Home Units were formed for this purpose. Two co-operatively-owned buildings were designed in North Sydney in 1947; for Urban Co-operative Multi-Home Unit No.1 Ltd in Waruda Street Kirribilli, and Urban Co-operative Multi-Home Unit No.2 Ltd, in Blues Point Road.
The latter was the largest with 36 flats planned over six floors on a sloping block overlooking Berrys Bay. The completed block had 27 flats. The building was designed in a simple functional Modernist style by Aaron Bolot with no decoration or embellishment. Interestingly, though the flats were only two bedrooms, the block was designed with families in mind. Two children’s play areas were specified, as was a swimming pool. To save space the dining and living rooms were combined. The name 'Westbridge' does not appear on the architect's drawings so must have been a subsequent addition, presumably referring to the building's location west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The design and construction of ‘Westbridge’ in 1947/48 coincided with the peak in North Sydney’s 20th century population at 60,379. The building went some way to alleviate the acute housing crisis that resulted from the downturn in construction during the Second World War resulting from National Security (Building Control) Regulations. These Commonwealth-enforced restrictions came into force under the National Security Act 1939-1940 in mid-1941 and were part of broader measures to maximise the availability of materials for the war effort.
Construction of the flats was also part of the transition of Blues Point from a 19th century mixed working and residential precinct to a desirable suburb of homes. ‘Westbridge’ replaced the Fig Tree Inn, dating to the early 1840s and possibly the oldest hotel in North Sydney. A decade after the flats were completed, local residents were agitating for an end to the industrial zoning of the nearby foreshore. In 1960 the Victorian-era buildings to the south of ‘Westbridge’ were demolished to build ‘Blues Point Tower’, which then dwarfed ‘Westbridge’ as the largest block of flats in Australia. ‘Blues Point Tower’ was also the first building in which units were sold with Strata Title. These neighbouring buildings, then, reflect important transitions in home ownership and building technology in Australia.
Today, flats in ‘Westbridge’ with views over Berrys Bay are highly desirable and variously described as ‘retro’ and 'boutique’.