Text by Steffen Welsh Architects
“Beach Slice” is a holiday home an hour’s drive from Melbourne, and a five-minute walk to the shore of Western Port Bay.
Sitting on a bush block, it is humble and relaxed, designed to holiday. A place to hang your hat, it is also suitable as a place to retire.
A home away from home serves two main purposes: enjoying a place somewhere else, and escaping daily routines: nature instead of town, stars instead of lights, quiet instead of noise, casual instead of organised, social instead of insular (or vice versa), leisure instead of work.
Given that holiday homes sit on prime real estate, there is a temptation to move away from the traditional fibro shack towards an oversized ‘substantial’ building showcasing sophisticated details and a sense of luxury that may as well be an extension of the place one is trying to escape from.
“Beach Slice” resists that temptation. Steffen Welsh Architects created a building that almost hides in its bush setting and appears effortless and simple – although it is far from that. It is a manifestation of ‘quiet architecture’: a building that may go unnoticed at first sight but reveals itself gradually and becomes appreciated over time.
The architects intended ‘Beach Slice’ to be ‘Architecture as Background’, a phrase coined by the Viennese architect Hermann Czech.
Czech said, ‘Architecture shall not impose on you. The user must not notice it, it should appear to have always been like this.’
This house was designed for three parties to holiday together effortlessly. It is split into two halves: a communal area on one side and private bedroom wing on the other.
The clients have been active environmentalists for decades.
Beach Slice was designed to minimise embodied energy used in its construction as well as the operational energy used during its lifetime.
It was also designed to maintain biodiversity on site.
Beach Slice sits amongst bush blocks with casually placed holiday homes varying in setbacks and having low visual impact. Gum trees and grassland are still the dominating features.
While the house may go unnoticed at first sight it reveals itself gradually and becomes appreciated over time, just as great architecture does.
Photos by Tatjana Plitt