Marcus O’Reilly Architects has carefully designed a low key, site responsive beach house in Sorrento on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in Australia. The timber clad structure reinterprets a longstanding beach house tradition in the area. It uses local materials to blend into, respect and compliment it’s sought after, national park adjacent location. The site, which has been in the owner’s family for more than fifty years, is heavily populated with eucalyptus trees which grow out of the rolling sand dunes of the area. Floating green stained cedar volumes and bleached timbers visually respond to the Eucalyptus canopies. The volumes step up the sand dune allowing it to be virtually undisturbed as the dune rises to the rear of the site. The front volume is anchored to the ground by canted sandstone walls lending a sense of gravitas to the otherwise light wood framed structure.

The main living level stretches east to west along the site to welcome northern light into each room of the house. The light is cleverly filtered through tea tree stake sunshades and screens which add to the vernacular of the house. The point of entry of the house is up a timber staircase with playful and unpretentious custom galvanized steel balustrades which leads to an expansive deck covered with a radial polycarbonate and timber awning. The architect chose a low maintenance material palette which was not only intended to stand up to the tests of sandy boogie boards, wet towels and teenage parties but also improve with age. Sustainable issues were to the fore, primarily with passive Solar performance. The orientation, size, volume of building, insulation and the weight were modelled to assess how much extra ballast would be needed to add to the southern walls to obtain the required thermal mass. The calculations paid off and rendered Air Conditioning unnecessary despite the obvious difficulties involved in obtaining optimal thermal performance for a structure that is up on stilts and lightweight in a temperate climate. Passive ventilation and 10,000 litre rainwater tanks complete the package. – Photos by Dianna Snape