North Bondi House, a new single residential dwelling atop the sea cliffs of Ben Buckler Point, overlooks the Pacific Ocean to the east and Bondi Beach and the city to the west. Conceived as a series of platforms, the 2-storey, split-level house frames and sequences these incredible views. A central void contains a folded-steel stair that ascends and connects the platforms, revealing a sequence of views through the house. The act of clambering over coastal rock platforms is written into this plan's story.
This image underpins the project's response to its unique topography, a response realised in 2 distinct moves. First, an entry sequence that closely follows natural site contours. Visitors, entering by a path along the site's northern boundary, traverse a stair tracking the natural rock line, to arrive at a stone platform with side-long views back over Bondi Beach. Second, a constructed platform extends a clear horizontal line from the interior living spaces to the sea cliff edge. The flatness of this plateau-like ground plane affords an infinite horizon view from deep within the plan. Large-volume envelopes, correlating to high land costs, characterize the Hastings Parade streetscape.
To counter this, we sought to modulate the project's composition and restore a sense of the domestic. At the lower level, a board-marked concrete balcony and garden project forward, bringing the scale down to street level. The upper volume composed of fine steel frames, offset against its masonry base, affords northern light to southern neighbours, and reduces the building’s bulk from Hastings Parade.
In order to take full advantage of the views on both sides of the house, the program is divided diagonally in section: On the ground floor, the kitchen, dining and living room are oriented east to the sea-cliffs; and an upper living room, connected via the split level, woks like a viewing deck to capture west views over Bondi Beach. The plan revolves around a north facing central void that cuts through the levels and brings natural light deep into the plan. The folded spiral stair creates a single point of vertical circulation that connects the programs of the house. The living room and master bedroom of the house’s upper volume open onto louvred balconies. User-controlled shaded spaces, they enhance privacy without compromising outlook.
Integrated and allied disciplines
The living room's north-western corner opens onto a balcony, creating a large louvred room. We worked with SDA Structures to achieve a structure-free corner, enhancing this extension of living to the outdoors.
The cost of building in Sydney’s residential sector is at an all-time high. Cost control was achieved with a careful selection of materials and monitoring design decisions throughout the process. Considering the site’s difficult access, costs were kept below $5700/m2, representing a relative good value outcome.
Response to client and user needs
Given the high-salt environment of the location, the selection of materials was critical. Exposed white face brick walls removes the need for additional paint and finishing. The brickwork is complemented by natural limestone and spotted gum hardwood floors, selected for durability with minimum finishing. The house’s split program achieves additional privacy for the master bedroom without compromising access to views; three children each have excellent access to views over Bondi, while the parents look out over the Pacific Ocean.
Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture Statement
Steel is featured extensively in the expression of both the façade and interior of the house at Ben Buckler. The 2 storey atrium is detailed using hot rolled steel sections of flats and angles. The result is a delicate, slender expression that is only possible with steel. The upper level balconies and screens share the fine steel detailing, and express a lightness against the weight of the masonry walls below. The structure has been fully hot-dip-galvanised and finished with micaceous oxide paint to withstand the environment. Inside, a w folded-steel stair takes pride of place, dramatically rising 3 levels through the central void, it connects all the programs of the house with a single bold gesture. Steel is also used for the fireplace joinery where its elemental appearance is key to the overall materials palette.
The project is designed to be naturally conditioned and provide year-round thermal comfort, obviating the need for costly, energy-intensive air conditioning. On the upper levels, operable external blinds control shade and privacy. They keep the house cool in summer without inhibiting solar access in winter. Likewise, large openings along the north, east and west let in cooling sea breezes and purge hot air in warmer months. Exposed brick walls and the insulated concrete ground slab add thermal mass, regulating internal temperature. Hydronic underfloor heating provides energy-efficient heating in cooler months. The 6.1kW roof-mounted photovoltaic panels and battery storage future-proof the house, reducing reliance on increasingly costly, emissions-intensive grid power.
Sited atop a Sydney sea cliff, the project responds to the unique topography of Ben Buckler point, closely following the site's natural contours. Its design optimises stunning, uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean to the east, and panoramas of Bondi Beach and the city to the west. Split across three levels, the house has a central void to bring natural light deep into the plan. Its folded steel stair connects the levels, framing a sequence of views. The project's simple material palette features exposed white brick walls, complemented by natural limestone and spotted gum hardwood floors. Visually, the 'lightness' of fine steel detailing for openings and balconies counter the heft of masonry walls.