An engineer and architect in training, Mark Phillips set himself a building challenge back in 1995.
After acquiring an impossibly steep block of land in Sydney’s southern suburb of Oatley, he was determined to build his dream house there. Overlooking the Georges River, the block
had many owners but none had been able to tackle the natural rock cliff running across the site, with its dramatic fall of 22 metres and many trees and rocks.
Employing all his skills, Phillips developed a design to suit the many difficulties of the slope. First a suspended concrete slab was built to serve as a building platform. Second, a crane was needed for two days as steel beams and columns were put in place.
Finally, timber wall infills and floors, windows and Shadowclad Groove cladding completed the house both structurally and aesthetically.
“The building’s structure can be viewed in a human likeness, where the structural steelwork are the bones and the Shadowclad forms the skin.”
Mark Phillips explains. Phillips chose Shadowclad Groove from Carter Holt Harvey for its structural ability, for “...its capacity to brace the whole building, which is better than the alternatives. Single planks have no rigidity.” It was an integral part of the design.
The use of Shadowclad Groove was also an important aesthetic choice. Designed to terrace down the cliff and take advantage of the river view, the Phillips House does seem to perch effortlessly up in the treetops. This treehouse effect was achieved using rough sawn cladding which helped to blend the house into its environment.
“It looked so much better than horizontal cladding,” he adds, “...and in some parts of the house I also used Plyfloor which I lightly sanded and applied polyurethane. It looks great and is continually commented on by visitors”.
With all the inherent difficulties of the job, Phillips was also pleased to find Shadowclad sheets are so easy to work with. “...the large sheets are good because they cover a lot of area in one go,” he says. Phillips found that Shadowclad was adaptable enough for innovative and unconventional designs and perfectly suited to his house up in the trees.