The Donaldson House has been ten years in the making. The home was initially commissioned by a family of five who wanted to use it as a weekend retreat on Sydney’s northern beaches, and who wanted it designed by Pritzker laureate Glenn Murcutt.
The Murcutt-designed Donaldson House was completed in September last year, and is now up for sale. Located in the northern suburb of Palm Beach, the site of the residence is a steep, 715-square-metre block (the house itself takes up 166 square metres) that is surrounded by native bushland and has water views out over the natural Pittwater estuary. It was important to the design that as many trees as possible be retained, and some of the trees surrounding The Donaldson House are hundreds of years old.
A beautiful location to be sure, but it also posed some problems when it came to chosing the materiality. As the site is located in a high-risk fire zone, Murcatt opted for a robust and relatively impenetrable palette of steel-stud frames, zinc cladding and reinforced concrete.
The lowest levels of Donaldson House have been insulated using R1 rigid thermal insulation, which is set between the structural and topping slabs. Underfloor elements are closed to external elements, and all windows are equipped with fire screen mess made of non-corrosive metal. In order to circumvent fire regulations that preclude the use of timber externally, the roof deck – as well as the exterior plywood wall and eaves linings – have all been coated with zinc.
Image: Modern House
As with most buildings – whether commercial or residential – another consideration was temperature regulation. The steel-stud-framed external walls are finished with a layer of Kooltherm R2 and a layer of Kooltherm R1. They are also lined with waterproof plywood, airflow-conducive Enkavent and a Grace ice and water shield to protect the residence against rain. Toughened glazing is also use throughout the home, coating vertical glass that is five millimetres thick and six-millimetre-thick glass roof panes.
Although the house is planned over five levels, it is almost completely invisible from the street thanks to a sandstone shelf that separates road from land. A suspended concrete staircase that rises to street level is used for pedestrian access the house, but the site is too steep for vehicular access. Instead, car storage and a shower for post-beach cleansing are planned at street level.
The five levels of Donaldson House follow the natural topography of the site, with the residence falling to the west. All of the rooms were conceived as north-facing, so as to best capitalise on access to solar power.
The house is being sold through Modern House, a real-estate agent specialising in architect-built homes. You can view more information on The Donaldson House here.