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Cliff Face House

Living Living Michael Nicholson

NSW & ACT Entries 2012

The site & design concept.
A six metre high cliff bisects the site and the outlook is to the west across the estuary.
Rather than being on top of the cliff, the house forms a 3 storey timber scaffold in front of the cliff. It is thin- one room wide.
The upper level filters the western sun and sky light and forms a verandah to a courtyard behind.
The cliff forms the back wall to the lower levels and becomes part of the building.
All levels provide a translucency to the outlook and the cliff behind.
It was important to capture the quality of golden afternoon light over water that is particular to this site, and bring it inside the building.
A fine structure was necessary to bring the quality of the cliff into the lower levels.
The detail promotes a rough/ smooth ecology, similar to the logic of an oyster. The building is sheathed in protective metal cladding. The timber structure is exposed internally and is essential to the quality of the interior. The value of timber as a resource is acknowledged and exterior timber is protected.

Primary structure.
The structure and structural grid was repetitive for cost and site efficiencies.
The fine timber frame was practical for the inaccessible site, allowing lightness for operability and translucency, and providing a beautiful counterpoint to the massive rock face behind.

The primary frame is 3 storey post and beam in recycled and new KD blackbutt. Beams/columns are twin 240/190 x 40mm thick sections sandwiching 10mm steel plate at all bolted connections, and 10mm steel fins that extend up to the fly roofs over. The frame is supported on the lower floor slab, and pinned back to the natural rock face. The upper level translucent lantern roof frame is in curved epoxy laminated recycled blackbutt trusses, sandwiched to posts with 10pl brass gussets.

Doors and windows.
Doors and windows are in solid blackbutt. Sunscreens across the two upper levels are in perforated copper sheet over steel and blackbutt composite frames. In this case the steel provides the fineness and the timber allows for the conventional installation of rolling hardware.

Lining.
18mm black formply is the west awning soffit and the three storey stair void is lined in 12mm hoop pine plywood, both materials chosen to emphasise the quality of the western light.

Cabinetry.
18mm hoop pine plywood with white woodwash and water based clear finish over, chosen to minimise VOC's

Flooring.
Upper level floor platforms are 140mm x 12mm recycled blackbutt t & g boards laid over sheet substrate leading out to covered blackbutt decking. 32mm blackbutt plywood open stair treads to allow the stairwell to ventilate and transmit light.

Finishes.
Low toxicity natural satin oils for all internal timbers to emphasise the quality of the hardwood.
Entered into:
  • Residential Class New Buildings
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