Cliff Top House By Joe Adsett Architects
Cliff Top House By Joe Adsett Architects

The Clifftop House: An Unorthodox Raised Extension


Capturing views of the Brisbane River, this is a home of impressive design – By Joe Adsett Architects

Designed by: Joe Adsett Architects
Location: Teneriffe, QLD
Year Completed: 2016
Photography: Scott Burrows

On a triangular parcel of land, wedged between grand residences in a leafy street in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Teneriffe, sat an awkwardly positioned “character house”. To one side of the house was a dramatic, sheer cliff with views over the Brisbane River.

The brief given to Joe Adsett Architects was to restore the house, accommodate a family of seven and capitalise on the views. As the existing house was in poor condition and could not be raised or lifted, the architects presented an unorthodox solution. Why not use the sliver of land between the existing house and clifftop and build a three-storey extension?

The floor plan of the existing house was divided into quadrants and the largest rear quadrant, which was not visible from the street, was demolished to make way for a connection to the new extension which has a 27m long elevation to the clifftop. The extension is raised up from the existing house where it captures river views and breezes and the upper storeys, when viewed from the base of the cliff, appear to float above the clifftop and tree canopy.

Bedrooms are split between the original house and extension, with the occupants brought together in living areas on the ground floor, third storey and roof garden. Central voids funnel a stream of light into the house while allowing cooling cross ventilation. The voids provide visual and acoustic separation between rooms, while still affording a vertical connection. Restraint was employed with the sizes of rooms and the joinery design enabled the interior spaces to be flexible.

Concrete, deliberately exposed and given a worn finish, was used as the main building material and cost savings were made by working with an engineer to design the most efficient suspended concrete structure possible. The slab itself is impressively thin, an achievement made possible by working collaboratively and employing 3D software.

The architects say the house makes a meaningful contribution to innovation in environmental sustainability as the concrete structure functions in a similar way to reverse brick veneer construction. This means the concrete walls and ceilings are deliberately exposed where thermal mass is relied upon internally. External heat gain through the concrete walls is diminished by isolating the cladding from the walls with timber battens and a layer of Sisalation wrap.

The external cladding systems act as a rainscreen to the concrete frame. Heat gain is minimised to the openings by using plantation timber frames glazed with low-e glass and louvres made of solid timber. The glazing is shaded by large concrete eaves and external blind recesses house automated canvas roller blinds.

Given the extensive use of concrete, the outcome could have been Brutalist but the use of a palette of weathered and natural materials, inspired by the texture of the cliff face, and the softening effect of the timber window frames and cladding prevented this from being the case. Working in close cooperation with the contractor, MCD Construction, Joe Adsett Architects has given the family of seven a home of which they are proud — and one that has become a neighbourhood icon.

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Joe Adsett Architects