The Cliff House

May 23, 2024

Architects: Rolf Ockert Architects
Builder: Bellevarde Constructions
Location: Dover Heights NSW

Perched on the clifftops of Dover Heights, the aptly named Cliff House demonstrates the many facets of structural design the Partridge team delivers to achieve the architectural vision – from the largest elements of structural slabs and walls, down to the finest details of fixings for louvre screens,stair treads and glass floors for the pool. Working with Rolf Ockert Architect and the team at Bellevarde, this project has it all – concrete, mild steel, stainless steel, timber, aluminium, glass.

On top of the usual challenges of basement excavations near boundaries and achieving large open plan spaces, being at the top of a cliff also means the building is subjected to the aggressive coastal environment and dramatic wind loads which had to be accounted for in the structural design. Additionally, the new pool near the cliff edge had to be futureproofed for erosion and was designed to cantilever out from setback foundations to allow for weathering of the cliff face.

In contrast to the norm, there are numerous exposed steel frames which required meticulously detailed connections in coordination with the design team and fabricators to ensure it achieved the aesthetic requirements whilst being constructable. This includes a bespoke glazed steel lift shaft frame, a glazed pop-up roof frame floating above the roofline and catching the full might of the wind, and a steel façade frame that also doubles as a structural support for the lift shaft frame, clear spanning plywood tread stairs and the pop-up roof. A similar approach was taken for the many bespoke off-form concrete details with visible chamfered edges, folds, and rebates.

Practical considerations, such as wind-loading for façade glazing and the design of aluminium aerofoil, solar panel hold-down and louvre supports, were carefully integrated. Cantilevered stainless steel rod balustrades – including one along the cliff edge – and glass balustrades provide safety features while enhancing the architectural appeal of Cliff House.

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