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Project Overview

Year : 2011/2012
Type : Residential / Beach House
Size : Total existg plus new areas approx 400sqm

Is it a roof ? Is it a wall ? What is it?

Blurring the boundaries between traditional building elements, this is our ‘Skin & Shelter’ project : With a simple gesture – almost like forming a C-shape with your hand – the folded skin protects from being overlooked by neighbours. The shelter structure leans over the remnants of an existing 1960′s beach house on the opposite side, completely transforming and absorbing this existing ‘box’ into the new creation. The spaces formed in-between the old and the new open up towards front and back, to make the most of the amazing views either side.

Project Brief & Design Response

The residence sits in beautiful scenery on top of a hill, by the beach. The brief was to capture the amazing views front and back and to create a bright beach residence for large family gatherings, that has the capability to mature into the owners’ permanent home over time.

Inside-outside living by the beach at its best; a simple gesture of skin and shelter where required. The flexible design allows the two levels to be used independently or together. Two completely separate indoor living areas (one for the owners, one for the guests), are accompanied by a series of outdoor living spaces with very distinct qualities. Exciting spaces and views unfold on the visitor’s journey through the house.


Like all our projects, the architecture is based on passive solar design principles : Lots of glass capturing the northern winter sun, with long eaves shading the hotter summer sun, few and little openings to east and west, and particular protection along the western facade. Using double glazing with low e-coat, adding high insulation, exposed concrete floors as thermal mass, harvesting rainwater and greywater and re-using building parts and materials all make it a very ‘green design’. Active ESD systems like Solar Hot Water are then added on where meaningful, finding an optimum between economic and ecological sustainability.


Examining boundaries between building elements takes the architecture back to its fundamental function of providing shelter. Almost a bit like a cave, the skin protects from the elements and the ‘wilderness’. Making this skin a continuos, homogenous surface was a huge challenge – but well worth it with the results !

Client’s Comments

“We loved Melbourne Design Studios’ architectural response. The very simple ‘shelter’ idea and the way its skin is conceived make it simple, beautiful and sustainable at the same time. The interiors with the folded surfaces enclosing the rooms almost give a hint of a tarp or a tent – a beautiful beach house feel.”


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