Austin Maynard Builds a Beach Bach

©. Derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects

It's a small, wood, modest shack. What's not to love?

TreeHugger never shows second homes in the country, especially if they are not near anything and people have to drive for miles. Unless, maybe, if they are by our favourite Australian architects, Austin Maynard, or if they show a really interesting use of our favourite building material, wood; and if it's not too big and excessive. As the architects note:

Kitchen and dining, St. Andrews Beach House

© Derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects

Beach houses exist for simple relaxation, an escape from the city, for quietude and downtime with family and friends. It should provide contrast from day-to-day normality, be super low maintenance, relatively self-sustaining and basic, but not without simple creature comforts.

dining table in beach house

© Derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects

Well, I could just be honest and admit that I will always find an excuse to show the work of Austin Maynard. It's always a trip into new territory. Here we learn about the philosophy of the "bach."

Living Area

© Derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects/ Under construction

Australians have some of the biggest houses in the world and, increasingly so, Australian holiday houses are becoming carbon copies of the suburban home. Simple shacks are replaced with oversized structures that are all too literally a-home-away-from-home. The owner of St Andrews Beach House recognised this. In his brief he would frequently use the term ‘bach’ – a word used in New Zealand to describe the rough and ready beach shacks built mostly in the mid century from found and recycled materials. Regardless of how much money you’ve made, you get yourself a bach, and that bach has to be the most basic, down-to-earth thing. The owner challenged us to design and build him a ‘bach’ in the dunes.

Curtains instead of doors

© derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects/ Under construction

This was common in North America as well; look at the work of Andrew Geller, "the architect of happiness." I have always thought Austin Maynard was also an architect of happiness; there is always something to make you smile. This beach house certainly is basic in some ways; it doesn't even have doors.

Slleeping area upstairs

© Derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects

A central spiral staircase leads upstairs to the bathroom and bedroom zone. Unlike a traditional bedroom layout, the upstairs sleeping area is essentially one bunk room, separated by curtains. (The space can also function as a second living or games room.) Rather than design a series of sealed bedrooms, each with ensuite and walk-in-robe, the sleeping zone at St Andrews Beach House is informal, casual and relaxed, where floor space is the only limitation. And when that limitation is reached, guests are invited to pitch a tent on the soft sand outside and use the house as a central hub.
wood framing under construction

© Derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects/ Under construction

Even out on the beach, there are nods to sustainability. And unlike Geller's work, this doesn't look like it might blow away.

Wood framing from below

© Derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects/ Under construction

St Andrews Beach House stands at less than five metres in radius, creating a very small footprint amongst the dunes. Like all of Austin Maynard Architects buildings, sustainability is at the core of this project. The materials used are robust and designed to weather. Passive solar principals [sic] are maximised by the design. All windows are double-glazed. Solar panels with micro-inverters cover the roof providing electric hydronic – no fossil fuels, no gas. A large cylinder concrete water tank collects rainwater, captured and reused to flush toilets and water the garden.

Evening view

© Derek Swalwell for Austin Maynard Architects/ Under construction

Ok, so it is in the middle of nowhere and it isn't close to anything but a corner store and a brewery (what more do you need?). But it is "a Euclidean form set amongst the rough and sandy terrain, and it provides – in modest form – everything you would need and want in a beach shack." Again, what more do you need?

Plan view of lower level

© Austin Maynard