A Sublime Concrete Sanctuary in Ocean Grove

The owners of this beachfront plot in Ocean Grove are a soon-to-be-retired couple who have held the enviable site for over 20 years. With the previous building falling victim to steel corrosion just 15 years after completion, the owners realised a more durable structure was required on such an exposed piece of land. Especially as it needed to accommodate three generations of their extended family once it became the pair’s permanent address!

The clients enlisted Auhaus Architecture to design an inviting home that could withstand the ferocious weather conditions typical of the beachfront site. Director of Auhaus, Kate Fitzpatrick, approached the brief with a sympathetic view of the wild and woolly locale.

‘Our goal was to create a house that felt as if it belonged to the site and didn’t overwhelm the landscape and the location,’ she explains. The desire was not to dominate or conquer the cliffside dunes the house would sit upon, but rather to contribute to the unique environment she had been engaged to interpret.

The Cliff House comprises two concrete bodies at the front and rear of the property, connected by an elevated central courtyard (designed by Bethany Williamson Landscape Architecture). The beachfront structure is split across three levels and connected by a central atrium, in the middle of which sits a statement spiral steel staircase. Ascending these stairs leads to an open plan communal living space, consisting of a sunken carpeted lounge and kitchen-dining area. The top floor accommodates a guest bedroom and bathroom, while the ground floor hosts the master suite.

A raised central courtyard separates the two wings of the house, allowing for panoramic pool views to be glimpsed from every point. The rear part of the house contains the children’s sleeping quarters, from where the ocean horizon can be viewed across the elevated internal terrain. Maximum integration into the natural surrounds was a key design concern.

With this in mind, the rustic low-maintenance material palette makes perfect sense. The concrete’s raw and refined beauty is mediated by its functionality, tipping the balance of the final structure towards minimalism rather than austerity. Hardwood timber cladding the exterior has been finished in oil, meaning it will silver off to a more rustic, weathered hue over time. Additionally, as the house matures, the rooftop garden will cascade down the concrete walls, shrouding the public-facing frontage in native foliage.

Despite the serious climatic challenges presented by this rare location, it was actually the winding steel staircase that proved the most challenging component of the build! ‘We had our local steel contractor undertake this work, but it was far more complex to fabricate than we had ever envisaged,’ says Kate. ‘While we are all proud of the end result, it is safe to say that we won’t be doing one of those again for a while!’

We can see why this sublime contemporary construction was shortlisted for this year’s Victorian Residential Architecture Awards!

See more projects by Auhaus here.


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