The modern beach shack that almost turned its back on the view | Kanebridge News
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The modern beach shack that almost turned its back on the view

This unassuming house emerges from the sand dunes to punch above its weight

By Robyn Willis
Fri, Mar 17, 2023 8:00amGrey Clock 4 min

When architect Kirsty Hewitt first looked along the street where this award-winning Adelaide property is now situated, one thing stood out. 

“There’s just unending empty balconies on this frontage,” she says.

While outdoor spaces are understandable inclusions for properties that enjoy an exceptional view, these had failed to hit the mark in terms of useability.

Because, while the view — the point of convergence for the River Torrens (also known as Karrawirra Parri) and the ocean — is indeed a drawcard, it is also to the west where the sun is strongest.

“It was finding a balance between opening to that view, which was west south west, and managing the weather,” she says. “The sunsets are amazing but in summer, the western coastal frontage is hammered, right where you want the view. 

“It’s also where all the cold weather comes across the ocean, as well as the wind and rain.”

Solving this design puzzle was one of several challenges this block presented for KHAB Architects, which was part of a subdivision.

For more stories like this, order the latest issue of Kanebridge Quarterly magazine here

“The clients bought the skinny portion that had been cleared and someone else had built a large house on the northern side,” she says.

After some discussion, and considering the planning regulations which limited the height of the property, and the noise from the traffic along the busy street between their block and the water, the clients decided on a design that would be about one third of the size of their neighbour’s home.

“The big draw was the amazing ocean view across this opening where the river enters the ocean,” Hewitt says. “It was on the south side adjoining the reserve along that river, with native vegetation. But it was a 8.5m site and in Adelaide, we’re not used to something that narrow so it was a very skinny site to achieve all the things the clients wanted.”

Instead of excavating into the site as some other properties along the row had done, Hewitt designed a house that looked as though it had emerged out of the sand dune. Working on the Indigenous principle popularised by legendary architect Glenn Murcutt of touching the earth lightly, Hewitt sought to resolve the tension between the desire for the view and the need for privacy with a lightweight building that still delivered the functionality the owners required.

The idea of a balcony facing onto the water was the first thing to go. Instead, Hewitt proposed placing a slightly raised, enclosed living room at the front of the house and positioning a double glazed window to frame the view and minimise noise. The owners took some convincing.

“The clients wanted floor-to-ceiling windows but if we did that, they would see the traffic, and the house next door and it would not emphasise the ocean in the way they imagined,” Hewitt says. “We experimented with masking tape and worked out ways to emphasise the horizon from the living room when you’re seated, and then from the kitchen when you’re standing.”

To create some outdoor living space, Hewitt cut out an internal timber deck with a curved opening above down the southern side of the house that was protected from the wind while acting as a sun trap and providing views of the ocean. 

Corrugated steel has been used extensively to reference the old beach shacks once common along the Australian coastline, as well as to allow for a considerable amount of design flexibility.

“We wanted to create a shell over the parts of the house that needed to be protected,” Hewitt says. “We wanted to use the corrugated material to morph from roof to wall, and then parts of it to peel off to become the fence to the south. 

“In some places it has this strategic ‘bite of the apple’ where it reveals the inner material, which is the timber on the deck inside, like the flesh of the apple.”

The house has been heavily insulated for thermal comfort all year round, while the spaces have been designed to be flexible now, and into the future.

“We wanted to create different qualities with the living spaces. One has the view and the other is the only room in the house that sits on slab with a connection to the rear yard,” she says. “The clients didn’t have children when they came to us but they now have two babies. The kids’ rooms both have lofts, which they can’t use yet, but they will grow into them.”

Hewitt thinks of the house as the new kid on the block that can hold its own against its bolder and brasher neighbours.

“We were so thankful that our clients were on board with the concept of a smaller footprint,” she says. “The budget was not enormous and we wanted the money we had to go into quality rather than quantity.  We wanted to be as clever as we could.”

Images: Peter Barnes


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In signs that confidence is returning to the Australian property market, the combined capitals recorded their highest preliminary clearance rates since April last year, CoreLogic reports.

More than 2,290 homes went to market across capital cities last weekend with early data revealing a 71 percent clearance rate. This compares with a revised clearance rate of 64.2 percent last week. It marks the second busiest auction week to date this year.

Melbourne led the way, with 1,122 homes taken to auction. Of the 916 results collected so far, 73.5 percent were successful. It was a similar story in Sydney, with 791 homes to go under the hammer. Preliminary results indicate a clearance rate of 71.5 percent.

The smaller capitals including Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra all experienced higher clearance rates week on week, with Adelaide out in front at 78.6 percent. It was a less spectacular result in Canberra, with a 59 percent clearance rate and in Brisbane at 56 percent.

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