Stripped back to its essentials, St Andrews Beach House is a celebration of exposed structure, optimising location and rethinking the coastal home. Andrew Maynard of Austin Maynard Architects speaks to their process.
An exploration of form, St Andrews Beach House is a beacon of understated essentialism, beautifully executed, it embraces its generous coastal vistas. Measuring less than five meters in radius, this seemingly slight beach home challenges the brief of what our ‘away homes’ should contain. Andrew Maynard says that the formal concept came out of a process of continual exploration – “There are numerous outlooks, orientations and views of the site, and every time I sketched out forms there was always a back to the building that couldn’t be justified by the 360 degrees of awesomeness that surrounded the shack”, he reveals. The resulting elliptical form not only sits organically amongst the sand dunes, but also is a mirror to the whirling formations in the sand to which it sits adjacent.
Located along Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and built by Spence Constructions in 2018, the level of refined detail from the purposefully reserved palette allows for the title of ‘low maintenance’. Commenting on the frustration with so many holiday homes in Australia being vast, extravagant and requiring continual up-keep, the client, says Andrew, “was determined to resist adding in more than they needed, and it was the idea of a hard tent (as inspiration) that kept reminding us all to try to reduce whenever we felt the pressure to increase the size of the shack”. Taking a nod from our geographical neighbours, the philosophies of the New Zealand ‘bach’ (a basic holiday home structure made from found materials), the concept of St Andrews took flight with the intent, says Andrew, “for the house to hold only the necessities”.
St Andrews Beach House by Austin Maynard Architects is a beacon of understated essentialism, beautifully executed, it embraces its generous coastal vistas.
With no retail and restaurant high street in sight, the idea of being completely disconnected was of high priority for the client, as was a maintained level of comfort. Andrew says, “beach houses exist for simple relaxation, an escape from the city, for quietude and downtime with family and friends”. Its location abutting a national park and in close proximity to the foreshore allow for this remove. On approach, mentions Andrew, “a single cylinder concrete water tank acts as a gateway marker to the beach house, from here onwards you leave cars, the road, your troubles and everything else behind”.
On a site just over 8000 sqm, the house itself sits lightly at 140 sqm making its impact and footprint minor. Although as Andrew says, unlike the traditional bach, there are “no found materials here as the costs became prohibitive – quality reclaimed materials are expensive”, however, “the shack is constructed from new materials, but those robust, class one timbers will age and grey quickly, allowing the shack to increasingly retreat into the dunes”.
With all of Austin Maynard’s projects there is an underlying dedication to the sustainable, and this is no exception. As Andrew says, “the only energy that enters the site is green energy. The sustainable choice is to stay connected to the grid and, if possible, pump more green energy back into the grid than you use”. This means that “St Andrews Beach House is all set up for battery installation, and once the tech/cost equation adds up in the very near future” the property can be in the positive as a green energy generator.
The resulting elliptical form not only sits organically amongst the sand dunes, but also is a mirror to the whirling formations in the sand to which it sits adjacent.
Planned to be open and malleable internally, the focus is clearly on the exterior views and aspect. The interior is based on expressing the exterior materiality, divided with moveable screens that replace permanence with a sense of flow. Maximising its location in amongst the dunes, and embracing, as Andrew says, “the robust vegetation and the sound of crashing waves”, this really is an idyllic escape. Austin Maynard’s approach has always been centred on a playful inventiveness, and as Andrew summarises “we want people’s lives to be a little better simply because they occupied a space we created”.
St Andrews Beach House embodies all of the principles of a low maintenance, relaxing abode. Built on being a place of essentialism, deeply connected to its location, it is about leaving behind most conveniences, whilst still maintaining the comforts. In this way, the St Andrews Beach House is a successful exercise in reconsidering the coastal home.