From Australia’s Jewish Past: Aaron Bolot – award-winning architect  from the 1930s to 1960s

October 24, 2023 by Features Desk
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Aaron Bolotinskiy, later known as Bolot, was born on 14 February 1900 in Crimea – near the Black Sea – and, together with his family, migrated and settled in Brisbane in 1911.

Bolot-designed Wylde St, Potts Point, Sydney

In 1926, he graduated from Brisbane’s Central Technical College, where he studied architecture, achieving Queensland’s Institute of Architects Gold Medal.  Following graduation, Aaron contributed to several significant projects, including with Walter Burley Griffin, an American architect who was living in Queensland at the time and who later was responsible for the planning of Canberra City.  When Aaron joined Walter Burley Griffen they worked on drawings for two Sydney incinerators, one to be located in Pyrmont – which was demolished in the early 1990’s and the other at Willoughby – which has been used as office space.  In an interview with Trevor Waters – a well-respected designer, construction and conservation of prestigious and iconic buildings in Sydney – Aaron spoke of Walter Burley-Griffin as easy to work with and a man of great vision.

Aaron went on to undertake solo designs before moving to Sydney in the 1930s – the era of the Great Depression.  He set up his own practice and worked from a small office in Pitt Street.  He had the opportunity to work with a number of notable and innovative architects, which led him to have experience with the contracts to design a number of theatre commissions.  These included a number of art deco cinemas in Sydney – including the Ritz at Randwick. This cinema is a very good example of Aaron’s cinema architecture and is the last surviving of the six cinemas he completed as a sole practitioner in NSW and Victoria.  The Ritz was designed in 1937 and very similar in design to the Ritz in Goulburn and the redesigned Melba Theatre in Melbourne – which was renamed the Liberty.  It was also reported that Aaron had completely transformed the design with his artistry, spaciousness, modern lighting and exciting general modernity.   He also designed a number of other cinemas in regional NSW.

In 1941, Aaron joined the Australian Army and served overseas in World War II until 1946.  Following the War, one of his most iconic designs was the apartment building at 17 Wylde Street Potts Point which was completed in 1951.  In 1997, the building was registered on the (now defunct) Register of the National Estate as historically significant for several points, including architecturally, as “an outstanding example of an International style post-war residential building. It holds an important place in the development of a high-rise aesthetic in Australia and is valued by the architectural and broader community’’. Other buildings he designed include the Goomerah apartments in Darling Point in 1957, the Murilla units at Bellevue Hill in 1960, and the chapel at the Temple Emanuel in 1966 – now known as The Neweg –  as well as a number of buildings in North Sydney and surrounds.  There appear to be very few Sydney suburbs that Aaron did not design a residential or commercial building for.  All the buildings mentioned are certainly standing today and can be easily found, such as what was the Edgecliff Motel and the Bondi Rex Hotel, two of which had been updated in design by Aaron.

In 1978, Aaron was elected a Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and remained active in the Jewish community.  The Australian Institute of Architects recognised Aaron’s contribution to ‘Multiple Housing’ with the Aaron Bolot Award, introduced in 2009.  Aaron passed away in 1989 and was survived by his wife, who, up until her death, lived in his Goomerah apartment building.  His last office was at Asbestos House in York Street.

The AJHS acknowledges the following references in the preparation of this story:-

Dictionary of Australian Artists – Biography; JewAge; State Library of NSW; Wikipedia

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