Glenn Murcutt

Donaldson House

 
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Donaldson House

Architect

Glenn Murcutt

Completed

2016

Design Architect

Glenn Murcutt AO

Engineer

James Taylor & Associates

Builder

Craig Poppleton

Address

54 Bynya Road, Palm Beach NSW 2108

Specifications

4 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 2 Car

Photography

© Anthony Browell

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Introduction

“I was approached about ten years ago by my clients who were at the time living in London. It was their intention to return to Australia within a couple of years. They invited me to design a house for their growing family of two daughters and a son, initially for use during weekends and holidays but later to become their main residence.” – Glenn Murcutt AO

Donaldson House is located on the Palm Beach peninsula north of Sydney where it offers the best of a treechange and seachange. Surrounded by native bushland and with views to Pittwater, the house has been designed with great sensitivity to the landscape, climate and seasons.

Donaldson House is a freestanding house completed in September 2016. Designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Glenn Murcutt, the four-bedroom, two-bathroom house has a distinct Australian character and is integrated with nature as its form responds to the profile and conditions of the site.

Sitting below a sandstone crop on a steep 715-square-metre site, the house is almost invisible from the street. Parking is at street level and a suspended concrete staircase descends to the top level of the two-storey house. The house is located in a high fire-risk area and its design and construction specifically meets the standards and regulations. It has reinforced concrete foundations, steel roof rafters and toughened glass throughout, and the exterior of the house is clad with black-weathered zinc.

The internal space measures 166 square metres with all living spaces and bedrooms configured on the north side of the house to take advantage of the northern sunlight, and all passageways on the south side of the house. The master bedroom and bathroom are on the upper level, as are the kitchen, dining and living space that extend to a partially covered veranda with views to the south and west. Three bedrooms, a bathroom and laundry are on the lower level and each has sunlight and views of native trees and bushland.

The interior is a calm and tranquil space with white walls, sealed concrete floors and hoop-pine lined ceilings. Windows open to the native trees and sandstone crops and a colourful tapestry, Orion M.C. by Victor Vasarely, enlivens the dining area and main stairwell.

The house is economical and sustainable to run and maintain with water storage tanks, solar panels, northern sun and no air conditioning.

Influenced by the local landscape and environment, Donaldson House “touches the earth lightly” – as all of Murcutt’s buildings do – and is designed for convenient, functional and sustainable living amongst the trees yet close to the sea.”

The House

There are few places in Sydney that offer the best of the region’s native bushland and coastal landscape. Located on the Palm Beach peninsula, 43 kilometres north of Sydney, Donaldson House is surrounded by trees and has views of the water and is designed for an easy and sustainable lifestyle.

Donaldson House was initially designed for a family of five to use during weekends and holidays but to later become their main residence. Spread across two storeys, the 166-square-metre house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large open-plan living space that opens to a 34-square-metre veranda.

It is built on a 715-square-metre site about 100 metres above sea level. The house has views towards the natural estuary of Pittwater, while Palm Beach’s white sands and surf are to the east.

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A public reserve extending from the western boundary towards Pittwater is filled with sandstone rocks and caves and significant native trees, shrubs and creepers including Sydney red gum (Angophora costata), spotted gum (Corymbia maculate), she oak (Casuarinas), blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) and many grevilleas, and the angled design of the house has purposefully retained as many trees as possible on the site.

The roofline of the house sits flush with the top of a sandstone shelf that extends from street level. The double parking space, storage and a shower for washing off sand is at street level due to the steepness of the site, and the house is accessed via a suspended concrete staircase that traverses the sandstone rock face.

 

The house is sited to allow for northern sun throughout the day and it is configured with all living and bedroom spaces to the north to take advantage of solar access, and passageways and staircases to the south.

The profile of the house follows the topography of the site, which falls to the west. The upper level contains the entrance foyer, master bedroom and bathroom as well as the kitchen, dining and living area. This open-plan space has views through the native trees to Pittwater and extends to a partially covered veranda, which capitalises on the sun and views to the south and west.

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The master bedroom is adjacent to the entry and has an expansive glass wall that opens to the sandstone rock face, which provides privacy from the street. A water element connects the external space between the bedroom, rock shelf, and entrance foyer and sloped glass roof panes provide protection from the rain.

A colourful tapestry, Orion M.C. by Victor Vasarely, hangs on the southern wall in the main internal stair well where it is naturally lit by the white opal glass roof lights and can be viewed through a glass wall from the dining room.

Three bedrooms, a bathroom and laundry are set on the lower level of the house, which gently follows the profile of the site. Each space has northern sun and views of the bush, and the bedroom furthest west has views to Pittwater. A deck adjacent to the laundry provides outdoor space for drying clothes.

Internal and external floors are reinforced concrete and finished with light grey and sealed sandstone. The internal ceilings on the upper level are lined with native hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) and walls are satin-finished white or white bagged brickwork, with glazed tiles in wet areas.

Opal white interlayered laminate roof glazing is set over the main stairwell where it has externally mounted, electrically operated, adjustable louvers for controlling light and heat. The house is un-air-conditioned and the hot water unit is evacuated tube solar panel unit with instantaneous gas boost.

Two tanks with a total capacity of 7500 litres are beneath the master bedroom and store water to be used for the laundry, bathrooms and in case of fire. An additional tank carries the overflow that slowly discharges into the native bush.

To reduce the potential damage of wildfires, Donaldson House has been designed and constructed in accordance with the requirements of Bushfire Attack Level Flame Zone (BAL-FZ), which is the highest risk level assigned by NSW Rural Fire Service.

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The house has reinforced concrete foundations and steel roof rafters. The lowest concrete floor levels are insulated with R1 rigid thermal insulation set between the structural slab and topping slab, and underfloor areas are closed to the external elements. As fire requirements prevent the use of timber externally, all exterior plywood wall and eaves linings and roof decking elements are sheeted with zinc. The walls are finished in a dark integral coating and the roof is left natural.

External walls are steel stud framed with one layer of Kooltherm R2 and one layer of Kooltherm R1, and they are lined with 16-milimetre waterproof plywood, Enkavent for airflow and Grace Ice & Water Shield to protect against wind-driven rain. They are finished with black weathered interlocking Zinc sheeting.

There is toughened glazing throughout. Vertical glass is a minimum five-millimetres thick and sloping windows and glass roof planes are six millimetres. All windows are steel or satin-anodized black aluminium framed and sealed against ember attack. Each window opening has glass, a fire screen mesh with non-corrosive metal (the mesh having maximum 2-millimetre aperture) and a fire shutter made with sheet metal lining each side of a metal frame. The 20-millimetre voids are filled with rigid heat insulation comprising calcium silicate.

 

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The roof is constructed using rolled hollow steel section rafters set at 600-millimetre modules. The structural roof has 25-millimetre waterproof plywood sheets and is lined with five-millimetre Enkavent and Grace Ice & Water Shield. The roof sheeting is a standing-seam, natural-colour zinc sheet.

The design and construction of Donaldson House has been influenced by the local landscape and responds to the site and the climate conditions of the area. Amongst the trees, yet close to the sea, it offers the best of a treechange and seachange.

Floor Plan

Download

PDF floorplan →

Specifications

Address

54 Bynya Road, Palm Beach NSW 2108

Rooms

4 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 2 Car

Internal area (approx.)

166 sq m (1,787 sq ft)

Verandah area (approx.)

34 sq m (366 sq ft)

Land area (approx.)

714 sq m (7,685 sq ft)

 

From the Architect

“Sydney can experience periods in the summer where temperatures reach 35 to 40 degrees Celsius, accompanied by strong to very strong dry westerly/north-westerly winds. However, two thirds of the time in summer the site is tempered by the cooling onshore northeast, east and at times southeast sea breezes. After a few summer days of north easterlies, the following day can be calm but as it progresses into the mid-afternoon the heat builds and a storm can develop in the west, move east out to sea and extend southeast down the New South Wales coast. A wind change from the southeast brings wonderful relief, the temperature dropping up to 20 degrees Celsius. This temperature change is known as the ‘southerly buster’ and is accompanied by heavy rain that can last a couple of days. The winds can be cold in July, August and sometimes September. Southwest and northwest winds come from the east coast Great Dividing Range where temperatures can drop along the eastern coast to about 10 to 16 degrees Celsius. Inter-seasonal winds are from the north, northeast, east, southeast and occasionally west to southwest. Temperatures during this period are superb. This is the period, it’s said, when the ‘dogs do not know whether to lie in the sun or the shade’.” - Glenn Murcutt, Casabella, Issue 869, January 2017

Viewings by appointment

Modern House Estate Agents
Telephone toll-free: 1300 814 768
Email: viewings@modernhouse.co

Location

Donaldson House is 43 km from the CBD and offers a lifestyle choice that is arguably the very best of Sydney – connection to the CBD and the famed Northern Beaches lifestyle.

Nearby attractions include; the Barrenjoey Lighthouse; Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park; Berowra Valley Regional Park and the water based and the attractions of Pittwater – a sheltered waterway around 5.5 kilometres long, which offers safe harbourage and recreational boating.

The iconic sandy shores of Palm Beach and Whale Beach are within easy reach of the house and the restaurants and cafés of Palm Beach and Whale Beach offer Pittwater or ocean views.

Nearby Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the second oldest National Park in New South Wales, conserves some 15,000 hectares of sandstone bushland. Rich in Aboriginal sites, European history and native flora and fauna it is a valuable location for family leisure activities.

The location of Donaldson House simply offers superb access to all the amenities required for today’s modern lifestyle.

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Architect

Glenn Murcutt AO is one of Australia’s most internationally acclaimed, admired and influential architects. Born in London, Murcutt grew up in Papua New Guinea before he moved to Sydney for high school. He studied architecture at Sydney Technical College, graduating in 1961, and in 1964 he joined the office of Ancher, Mortlock, Murray and Woolley.

Murcutt developed an appreciation for simple, vernacular architecture in Papua New Guinea, and in Sydney he was exposed to organic architecture that had a relationship to nature. He established his own practice in 1969 and both experiences have had a clear influence on his ethos that buildings should “touch the earth lightly.”

 

Murcutt’s architecture has a distinctive character and environmental sensitivity that is influenced by the Australian landscape and climatic conditions such as wind direction, water movement, temperature and natural light. His buildings are designed to be highly economical and functional, to conserve energy and to blend with the environment.

Murcutt has won numerous awards, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (1992, 2009), Alvar Aalto Medal (1992), Richard Neutra Award for Teaching (1998), Thomas Jefferson Medal for Architecture (2001), Pritzker Prize for Architecture (2002) and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal (2009). He was named Officer of the Order of Australia in 1996.

Architect's Drawings

Tapestry_Donaldson-House

Vasarely Tapestry

On the southern wall hangs an important part of Sydney’s modern architectural heritage, a 4m x 4.3m tapestry, Orion M.C. by Victor Vasarely.

From 1967 Vasarely’s Orion M.C. hung in the eastern core of the lobby of Australia Square, having been commissioned by Harry Seidler as one of the major public art works for this iconic Sydney building. The tapestry was sold by the building’s owners in 2003 together with a Le Corbusier tapestry titled Unesco which is now hung at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

An important part of the brief to Glenn Murcutt was to find a space where the Vasarely tapestry could be viewed in the house. Elsewhere in the house are three smaller Vasarely artworks.

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Publication

Casabella, Issue 869, January 2017

Viewings by appointment

Modern House Estate Agents
Telephone toll-free: 1300 814 768
Email: viewings@modernhouse.co