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An Unconventional Beach House Elevated On Steel

AB House by Office MI—JI at first appears relatively simple in form, but its design is underpinned by specific planning and client considerations. 

The new house in Barwon Heads, on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, was designed for a retired couple as a holiday home that could easily expand to suit the number of guests. 

Its location roughly 300 metres from the ocean called for a robust material palette, including corrugated fibreglass and galvanised steel. ‘The galvanisation had to be of a certain grade/thickness to ensure it would not corrode over time due to the ocean spray,’ says  Jimmy Carter, architect and co-founder of Office MI—JI. 

Steel was used in more ways than one on the project due to a new flooding overlay introduced midway through the design phase. ‘This meant that we had to elevate the house off the natural ground level by one metre,’ explains Millie Anderson, architect and co-founder of Office MI—JI.

The responding design sees the house raised on steel columns to support the home and define its perimeter. ‘The columns thus not only serve the very practical purpose of structurally elevating the house and allowing flood water movement underneath it, but they also form a spatial frame of repetitive equally spaced columns that create separate exterior spaces underneath awnings or hemmed in by the perimeter of columns,’ says Millie. 

A west-facing deck at the centre of the home creates a curving corridor that separates the two-storey front of the home from the rear. The couple’s dining room, living room, kitchen, study, and bedroom are all located in the front, allowing the rear portion to be easily closed off when not in use. 

The rotational play of the corridor, along with screening and window positioning, create multiple outlooks and sunlight opportunities in the home. Yet, even with the separation of forms, a continuity of space is established.

The home’s relatively stark exterior is contrasted indoors with warm timbers including birch plywood, tallowwood, American oak, and Tasmanian oak. Forest green 2pac kitchen cabinetry provides a point of difference, while referencing the colour of fibre reinforced plastic grating on the home’s perimeter. 

AB House is a coastal home fit for its specific context and clients, yet unconventional in form. Openings on the north, south and west embrace its beachside position and emerging landscape designed by Bush Projects

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net