Palm Beach on the northern beaches of Sydney, hide away for the rich and famous and fittingly perched on the Pittwater side is a SANDCASTLE designed by a couple of 'Starchitects'. The CLIFF FACE HOUSE is the result of an architectural double header where 2 of the countries leading design forces combined to come up with a Wilkinson award winning home.
The architects in question are Peter Stutchbury, a multiple state and national award winner and his protégé and now acclaimed colleague in his own right Fergus Scott. The owners initially approached Stutchbury but he informed them that this was the perfect opportunity for collaboration with his old apprentice.
The site was in fact a sandstone cliff that plummeted some 30 odd meters from the road down to the water. Instead of doing the obvious by building on top of the cliff like the surrounding neighbours, the pair decided to build over and down the cliff echoing Frank lloyd Wrights 'Falling Water', exposing the sandstone throughout the descending levels of the house. A romantic notion no doubt, but in practicality it posed all kinds of problems. The result as Stutchbury describes it, is a house that is in effect 'a scaffold clinging to the rock face'. Oh but what a living platform. The other great driver of the concept was lowering the house away from the busy road and by building it over and down the precipice meant it would be closer to the water.
The house is a lesson in embracing a difficult site and turning that to an advantage. The house is primarily steel and timber but perhaps the defining feature is the roof over the main living area. It is in fact 2 roofs, one made of a translucent acrylic that acts like a lantern. To protect it from the sun, a second steel roof flies over it like an umbrella. The primary view is to the west, which normally poses problems on how to combat the setting sun. An ingenious series of sliding screens have been devised of which owners can operate, trimming the building according to the season and direction of the sun.
The Cliff Face house is yet another ground breaking design solution from the school who, at all costs, look for new and innovative ways of embracing the site and using the natural conditions to inform the architecture. In this case existing trees, rock and sun. Sounds easy and if you are building a bark humpy it is. But getting the balance right and also creating a modern liveable piece of architecture requires a lifetime of dedication to the cause.
Come meet the men who turn the power of the Australian landscape in all its dangerous guises into highly liveable SANDCASTLES.