The client of St Andrews Beach House, along with its designers at AMA studio, were becoming increasingly aware of the lack of contrast between beachside houses and inner city dwellings. Holiday getaways have often become carbon copies of urban homes. The client wanted a simple, modest structure that related to the beautifully isolated environment. The model was the New Zealand ‘bach’- or basic beach shack, found in NZ vernacular architecture.
The town of St Andrews Beach on the Mornington Peninsula is one of isolation, ruggedness, and natural beauty. With no strip shopping, only a brewery and a corner store service the community. This particular site for the St Andrews Beach House lies abutting a National Park, cosily wedged between sand dunes just out from the shoreline. The coastline is fragile and sparse, which was the main starting point for the design response. With no neighbouring structures to harmonise with in sight, the home could solely respond to the landscape.
With no neighbours or distinct barriers to the surrounding landscape, orienting the house to a certain sun pattern or view was left unrestricted. The two storey structure takes advantage of the panoramic views, creating a 360 degree raised viewing deck with the circular form. The circular form also responds to the simplification of interior spaces and circulation. Corridors are eliminated and instead occupants can travel freely through rooms simply by moving around the circular plan. A typical covered exterior deck was exchanged for an internal deck that has been chiseled out of the round form, creating an outdoor space within the confines of the main volume. When the bi-fold doors are retracted, the whole space opens up to the environment.
The utilitarian timber posts reference the vernacular of beach shacks in New Zealand. The low cost structures often used salvaged materials and were designed for the everyman, no matter how much money they had to their name. The chunky timber detailing and modest mod cons speak freely of the relaxed nature of the home. With a radius of only 5 metres, the home is compact, though occupies a feeling of spaciousness.
The post and beam structure is based on industrial portal frame construction. Engineered timber beams are joined with 8mm steel plates and coach bolts to create an extremely rigid joint, capable of high load resistance.
Vicbeam GL18 Vic ash hardwood Glulam was used for external timber portal frames, while Vicbeam GL18 Mixed Species (silvertop ash, grey gum and messmate) hardwood Glulam was specified for internal timber portal frames.
The engineered timber is made up of thick plys of timber that contribute to its high strength in multiple directions.
The exterior timber cladding, along with most of the buildings materials, are designed to weather and patina with age. The structure and context will continue to blend over time, extending the notion of the home falling into harmony with the landscape. Rather than opt for a slick beach home that perches arbitrarily, the informal timber dwelling will settle like an old wharf. Timber provides a durability and natural aesthetic common to the beach shacks dotting the Mornington Peninsula coastline.
Simple circulation was one of the main design outcomes of the St Andrews Beach House. The byproduct of the round form is a default circulation. Occupants are implored to circle around the floor plan, with the circular motif continuing with the centrally located spiral staircase. The unusual plan provides a liberating spontaneity and adaptability.
Once upstairs, the space becomes wholly open and adaptable. Curtains act as partitions between rooms, allowing the space to take on many forms. One large living space can be manoeuvred into three bedrooms. Timber flooring and plywood joinery create an earthy contrast to the plasterboard and glazing that alternate between the exposed timber posts. The portal frame posts meet in a central steel disk that binds the unique frame together.