A Study of Permanence – Mermaid Beach Residence by B.E. Architecture
Gold Coast, QLD, Australia

Photography Derek Swalwell
Words Bronwyn Marshall

Conceived from a study of the balance between our human need for permanence and the unpredictability of the coastal terrain, Mermaid Beach Residence solidly connects to its site. B.E. Architecture explores the resulting conversation.

As an inherent need, humans seek to be both connected to nature and to live in enclosures that offer a secure, retreating enclave that provides protection and a somewhat dominance over said landscape. In some of the most incredible terrains, the ones that humans are most drawn to, there also comes the accompanying unyielding, forceful and uninviting climatic conditions. And yet, time and time again, we persist. Mermaid Beach Residence is a study of this intriguing tension, and the resulting architecture that unfolds. B.E. Architecture has studied and disassembled this behaviour and approached the design and intervention with the idea of solidly connecting the built form to the site, responding to its context with an acute sensitivity.

Built by Pase Building, Mermaid Beach Residence is located in the same named coastal locale and with its accompanying views and such close proximity to the beach, often-volatile weather conditions are a dominating factor.

Built by Pase Building, Mermaid Beach Residence is located in the coastal locale of the same name and with its accompanying views and such close proximity to the beach, often-volatile weather conditions are a dominating factor. In response to the cyclonic winds, thunderstorms, and lack of penetration from sunlight, B.E. Architecture has devised a series of integrated mechanisms that adapt their response to this incredible site.

Mermaid Beach Residence is a study of this intriguing tension.

Bringing together the client’s want for a relaxed, open and sun-drenched costal home, poured in-situ concrete as the primary building material means that protection from the elements could be, quite literally, grounded. The use of operable timber screen panels shades the punctuated façade and offer a sense of privacy, ventilation and retained access to the beach. A number of gestures are made reduce the building’s carbon footprint – Mermaid Beach Residence is dotted with solar panels, solar hot water, double glazing, screens for shade and passive cooling and other operable elements to create a coastal home that can respond to its location.

Typical of the coastal vernacular is an expectation for light-weight timber, overlapping boards, pastel tones and a defined weathered patina. Traditionally, when coastal dwellings were made from abandoned timber sail boats, these typologies would perhaps have made sense, and it may be a sense of nostalgia that connects them visually to the coastal landscape. Ironically, and somewhat opposingly, though, the Australian coastline and less-than-inviting, assaulting weather conditions are not conducive to creating any dwelling of permanence from these materials. Here instead, the concrete utilised is a combination of smooth and rough textures, through a technique referred to as ‘scabbing’, which creates a rough and stabilised counterpart to the warmth of timber elements, the internal joinery and the select furniture.

As a nod to Scandinavian minimalism, and a considered life, the approach to all elements for Mermaid Beach Residence is founded on restraint.

As a nod to Scandinavian minimalism, and a considered life, the approach to all elements for Mermaid Beach Residence is founded on restraint. The home sees two large concrete and timber clad volumes sit perpendicular to one another, offering both open and connected living spaces, and more private and moody passive retreats. The opportunity for the internal spaces to extend beyond the façade is created as courtyards become their own rooms. The openings and invitation of natural light throughout allows for the texture of the hero material, concrete, to be celebrated and expressed throughout the day, where the building envelope also allows for ledges and shaded eaves for entertaining to occur. The functionality of each space is designed to be dynamic and easily transformed.

B.E. Architecture brings a sophisticated approach to materiality, and through a pared-back contemporary cool, has proposed a truly appropriate coastal abode, rooted to its site.

B.E. Architecture brings a sophisticated approach to materiality, and through a pared-back contemporary cool, has proposed a truly appropriate coastal abode, rooted to its site.

B.E. Architecture has devised a series of integrated mechanisms that adapt their response to this incredible site.

Published 15 December, 2019
Photography  Derek Swalwell
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