Clovelly House

By Rolf Ockert Design

38 Cliffbrook Parade, Clovelly

By: Rolf Ockert Design

RODesign Clovelly House - Photo: Sharrin Rees

How does the project respond to its context, contribute to the public domain for example street or neighbourhood?

Key issues were were presented with the site were:

- The most magnificent quality of the site, the amazing ocean view, lies to the South while the sun still of course circles around the North. To focus on its unique location while getting natural light inside, the house was designed around a central void with a row of large operable skylights above it, angled to the North.

- The site is surrounded by two out-of-scale apartment blocks to the North and to the West, posing privacy as well as aesthetic issues, resulting in extensive use of louvres, angled to provide privacy but enable views from the inside 

- Being on the ocean front also meant that the roof height, particularly to the Southern, ocean, side, had to be minimised to reduce the impact on neighbouring residents.

- While the original cottage already had wonderful views onto the rock cliffs across the bay a slight swing of the external wall suddenly opened up expansive open water views in addition to the more intimate bay views.

- The Southerly wind on this site is a dominant force, as the clients had experienced over the years. Even on clear days it is strong, quite possibly also cold enough to prevent any outdoor activity or even the opening of any windows.

What problems did you have to solve?

These key factors together with of course countless smaller factors and decisions along the way shaped the house to what it is. The unusual but elegant roof shape allows sunlight in while still allowing neighbours to enjoy water views over the lower end. The expressive angled concrete wall mirrors the roof shape but in negative, resulting in a complex facade geometry along the main face, enhanced by the movement of ever changing shadows over the shapes.


The light void also contains the central circulation, the stairs. These are light and airy without looking or feeling flimsy. To the North of the are two levels, to the South three, taking advantage of the natural slope of the site. The main living space is on the Entry level, connecting it with the Northern garden and Pool as a very generous central family area. Upstairs are the bedrooms, on the Southern lower level several areas for more individual activities, Study, Studios and Library.


As a consequence of the relentless Southerly winds the house was designed, unusually and against our original instinct, without any opening windows facing South. Instead large frameless floor-to-ceiling double glazed elements allow uninterrupted views over the Pacific and allow a more intimate visual connection than framed openable glazing elements would have afforded.

What was the contribution of others, including engineers, landscape architects, artists, builders and other specialists to the outcome?

Tony from SL Wilson was an exceptional builder. The communication between him, the client and us architects was positive and joyous throughout, someting that is definitely reflected in the result.

Other than Alba, out structural engineer, we did not have any consultants on board.

How would you describe the value of design in relation to the cost of the project?

While this was not an extremely cheap build it represents excellent value for money. The focus was on high high build quality and, particularly due to the extreme oceanfront environment this house is located on, durability and ease of maintenance.

The house cost less than $5000/m2, including the extensive rock excavation required.

What are some important sustainability aspects of the project?

Environmental concerns also played a big role in the development of the design. The aforementioned central void allows natural light deep into the heart of the house, eliminating the need for artificial lighting during daytime.

This void, supported by the roof shape in combination with the operable skylights, also helps to naturally ventilate the entire house as it allows the rising hot air to escape, drawing cooler air behind. Operable floor vents in the Living area allow for the ubiquitous sea breeze to be let into the house in a controlled manner, all but eliminating the need for Air conditioning.


High performance insulation and double glazing throughout in combination with the high thermal mass in the house allow for utilisation and storage of the Northern solar heat gain in winter, keeping the house warm during the colder months.


Large rainwater storage tanks are sufficient to fill the pool and water the indigenous planting throughout the grounds.

All lights are low wattage LED type, reducing the electricity use significantly.

What do you consider to be the benefits of the project for the client, users and the community?

The client now have the house of their dreams, in their own words.

While this is of course the main objective with a private residence the aesthetic and sculptural quality the house represents to the street is no doubt a quality.

Other general comments

The house has been published widely in Australia and Internationally.