Season 02 - Episode 09

Media Gallery

This is a no-frills sandcastle - yet one of the most powerful.

The house at Big Hill on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is one of the most unusual beach houses you'll see. It doesn't try and create fantastic places in which to sit and worship the sun, here the opposite is true. It actually celebrates shade. Architect Kerstin Thompson has created a simple house that heightens one's sense of intimacy mixed with a sense of mystery. Within the thick concrete block walls is a triangular planned building that has an endless sense of space, yet a wonderful feel of containment. There are no hallways or box shaped rooms, circulation between the spaces is open yet clearly defined within the triangular plan.

Joinery placed along the walls add to the thickness of the building. There are no panoramic views on offer so the architect has limited the amount of windows, instead playing a game of light and shade. Here it’s all about experiencing the mass of the building and the calming experience of a shady place to find refuge. The ceilings are lined with black form ply that adds to the heaviness of the space. Remarkably the finish on the exposed concrete block work is so good, the pointing of the render joints so thin, it almost looks like stone. It gives the interior a modern, medieval Romanesque feel.

This sandcastle shows what is still possible when you return to the basics. There are no great feats of engineering or fancy fittings or infinity pools, but a simple plan using a limited palette of basic building blocks, but - and here’s the rub - composed and constructed by those with an eye and knowledge of how powerful unadorned spaces can be.

Don't be fooled by first impressions, the 'House at Big Hill' has a beauty far more than skin deep.