When Brisbane design studio Joe Adsett Architects was asked to redevelop a “poorly constructed ‘character house’” in Teneriffe into a modern abode for a family of seven, the team faced several challenges. One was the existing property, which could not be raised or lifted, meaning that the only buildable land left was a small sliver that lay between the existing home and clifftop. Fortunately, the clients were amenable to the idea of building a three-story cliff-edge extension on the challenging site, which led to the creation of the Clifftop House, an energy-efficient home with dramatic views of the river to the northeast.

In spite of a landslide that occurred during the design process, the architects said the clients held fast to the idea of a clifftop home, “recognizing the advantages outweighed the risks.” To accommodate the family of seven, the architects began with the floor plan of the existing home and divided it into quadrants — the rear quadrant connects to the extension — and split the bedrooms between the original house and the extension while placing the main communal areas on the ground floor. An additional family room and accessible green roof are located on the third floor.

The extension was mainly built of concrete and set on a very thin slab — a feat accomplished thanks to close collaboration with the engineer and 3D modeling software. The concrete facade was deliberately exposed with a weathered finish, while timber window frames and cladding help soften the Brutalist expression. The use of thick concrete also has the advantage of thermal mass. “Clifftop House makes a meaningful contribution to innovation and excellence in environmental sustainability through the concrete structure being used in a manner similar to ‘reverse brick veneer construction’,” the architects said.

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To minimize unwanted external heat gain, the cladding is isolated from the walls with timber battens and wall wrap. Recessed windows are fitted with low-E glass and solid timber louvers are also shaded with deep concrete eaves. Natural light penetrates deep into the home thanks to central voids, which also allow for cross ventilation. A 22-meter-long swimming pool placed along the cliff edge also promotes cooling breezes.

+ Joe Adsett Architects

Images by Scott Burrows