Despite our international reputation as a nation of ‘bushies’, Australians are essentially coastal people. All our major cities are near the water and most of us choose to holiday near it especially over holiday times. The term ‘beach house’ conjures up the sounds and smells of the beach and is synonymous with relaxed casual living. All the great pleasures of Australian life revolve around the beach – talking around the BBQ, walking, fishing, surfing and summer holidays.
Almost every Australian has memories of childhood holidays by the beach and the ubiquitous beach shack. Many of us aspire to the dream of owning one as aweekender’ and when we retire, heading to the coast to live. We love the outdoors and our homes are gravitating that way as well. Many are open-plan, flowing to the outdoors with dining areas and even complete outdoor cooking and entertaining centres. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Australian beach house.
The archetypical Australian beach shack is a simple fibro cottage, many of which have been converted into cool coastal pads. With seaside land now at a premium, these traditional shacks are giving way to modern architectural masterpieces. The once-humble fibro shack has metamorphosed into a designer retreat with Australia leading the way in innovative beach design. What began as beach shacks, fishermen’s’ huts and boating sheds of timber, fibro, corrugated or rusting iron, have evolved into a distinctive kind of architecture… structures that blend into or sit high above the landscape.
Typically, the beachside living structures designed by the new generation of architects, are open-plan pavilions with wide sweeping ocean views and lots of glass. Some have timber battens and sweeping roofs, others resemble square boxes of light and still others are made of concrete and earth and bunker into the landscape.
However, many of our coastal beachfronts are still characterised by typically Australian fishing shacks, boating sheds, bathers’ pavilions, changing rooms, surf lifesaving clubs and the occasional beach kiosk selling ice-cream, sun cream and fishing tackle.
The quaint and colourful beach bathing boxes at Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay, the Bathers Pavilion at Sydney’s Balmoral Beach and the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club ….. are all iconic Australian structures. And all across the country, old swimmers’ changing sheds and surf lifesaving clubs are being refurbished and transformed into swish restaurant-cum-leisure facilities.