Located on the Mornington Peninsula, the Somers Beach House was a welcome opportunity to revisit some bygone values of beach house design in a sleepy Victorian seaside town.
There has been a noticeable shift in beach house design and construction over the past few decades. Somers features a mixed bag of these ‘weekenders,’ with recent constructions more akin to what you would find in the outer suburbs of Melbourne than at the beach.
The 1970’s brick veneer building that existed on the site was a suburban vision of the area and had to go. The clients, 70-something years young, wanted to rejuvenate the site, opening it up to the garden, the light and to the community that the brick veneer had ignored for 40+ years.
‘We just want a beach house!’ claimed the client at our first meeting, identifying the lack of natural light and disassociation the existing house had to the landscape and to a beach. Also crucial to being at the beach was the ability to entertain in large numbers and to hang some of the client’s art collection. There was a desire to be able to survey the road from the kitchen ‘to see what was going on,’ and to wave to friends as they passed by.
The primary move was to relocate the alignment of the dwelling due north. The composition comprises two main buildings arranged in a simple L-shape.
In section, the angular nature of the house evolved from the combination of two timber framed structures. Both made from the same chunky Glu-Lam beam, the guest building is a simple skillion roof structure and consists of a carport, shed, two guest bedrooms, shared bathroom and laundry.
The main building is a contorted A-frame construction and contains the kitchen living, dining, bathroom and master bedroom. Both rooflines fall towards each other and towards the entrance, minimising the visual mass of the house and also signifying the directions of optimal solar gain. The two forms are clad in rough sawn weather boards and wrapped with Colorbond.
Covered partially by pergolas, a network of decking stitches the two buildings together. The physical breakage between the two structures allows the clients to only use, heat, or cool part of the house at one time. When guests are visiting, they can extend the usage to, as referred to by the client, the ‘motel rooms’. A vast deck links the two buildings via a partially enclosed pergola and encourages the clients to live partially outdoors.
The joists of the deck reach outwards into the landscape as if the builder forgot to trim them. The frayed openings between these beams encourage native grasses to grow amongst them, connecting the ground plan with the landscape and thus anchoring the building into the site. The permeability of the decking is also carried through into the front fence which suggests enclosure but is in fact open, a gesture to the communal beach life.
The highlight windows to the North of the main building are protected by retractable blinds during the hotter months and allow for dynamic shadow plays all year round.
Photography by John Gollings.