The Great Australian Beach Shack

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Dorman House is a finely crafted timber box, independently constructed to hover over an existing beach shack in Lorne, Victoria. In contrast to the neighbours, it has been designed to weather, to go grey, to age, and sink back into the landscape, back into the bush.

Today, sadly, we see the steady demolition of the Australian shack. Modest, humble shacks are being replaced with incongruous and unnecessary McMansions. Increasingly we see a duplication of the suburban home where once stood the shack. Through this process we not only lose important parts of our built heritage, we also lose a significant part of our social and emotional diversity. We lose parts of ourselves. At Austin Maynard Architects we do our best to avoid the simple temptation of demolishing and replacing. Where extensions are required/desired, we aim to retain and respect the existing shack and its scale.


The elevated extension sits on top of a heavy timber structure and comprises a kitchen, dining and living room, accessed via a spiral staircase. Polycarbonate was used as a lightweight cladding to infill the structure below, creating a useable space without adding mass that would dominate the original property. The new living space does not protrude forward over the ridge-line of the old house and avoids dominating the original shack unnecessarily.

Most of the glass faces north and all windows are double glazed with thermally separated frames. There is a hood above the northern windows to shield the summer sun yet still achieve optimal passive solar gain in winter. Along with active management of shade and passive ventilation, demands on mechanical heating and cooling are drastically reduced. The old timber decking was recycled and re-used internally. A large water tank is in place, used to flush toilets and water the garden. Where possible the architects have sourced local trades, materials and fittings.

Whilst the old kitchen was transformed into a second bathroom and laundry, the original beach shack remains mostly unchanged. It was tidied up and repainted, so that the charm and character of the post war shack was retained. Internally lined with Silvertop Ash, it’s a space that exudes character and responds to the seasonal changes and hours of the day.  The lighting inside is very evocative, controlled so you can work, or prepare a meal, without flooding the space with light and compromising the view. Full height windows on the northern side of the living space slide open to allow in the sea breezes.

The screening, required in bush fire zones to stop fire embers, acts as a balustrade.

The undercroft of the new living space is a simple infill of the heavy timber structure that holds the living space high up in the view. The spaces are lined with polycarbonate so that an abundance of filter light fills the room. Although it was originally envisaged as a rumpus room, the clients, Kate and Grant, loved it so much that they wanted it as their bedroom. Heavy curtains and huge sliding doors were added so that the space could have as much light and openness as the clients wanted.

Timbers used in this case study:


Internal Paneling: 

Silvertop Ash

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