South Melbourne Beach House


  • Topology Studio - Architect
  • Lew Building - Contractor
  • Clive Steele Partners- Engineers
  • SBLA - Landscape Consultant
  • John Hallett Design & Fabrication- Special Timber Joinery


The new home and architectural studio have been designed to maintain a continuity of local heritage whilst providing high quality contemporary design that utilises sound principles of sustainability and community engagement.

Given the particular challenges that this state faces in terms of density and population growth, and given that the average size of houses in this country are among the largest in the world, we believe we have a professional responsibility as Architects to challenge perceptions of how much space is required for a family home, without compromising on the quality of the spaces provided.

Key Features


Continuity of Local Heritage

The new home and studio have been designed with reference to the previous house on this site; a Victorian weatherboard transformed in 1956 to become an expression of modernist ideals.

With the kitchen moved to the front of the house, the remodelled house sat somewhat optimistically with its two corner windows, in a street of modest Victorians.

Local examples from the post war years are often erased in deference to preservation of the Victorian era. It is the 1950’s version of the home that was used as the contextual basis, maintaining a continuity of local heritage.


Community Engagement

Having lived with the kitchen on the sunny side of the street we were not prepared to move it to the rear in line with conventional development.

The new kitchen looks out to the street.

Visual permeability and street activation are achieved, with glimpses through the kitchen, into the courtyard and the studio beyond. Privacy is achieved through careful consideration of sill heights.

We saw our baby son was peeking through the screen door and our two year old neighbour peeking back through the front gate.

He invited her to come in to play. This is community engagement.


Compact Design

The compact design is a rigorous example of small scale, inner city living, accommodating a family of four within 150m2.

The average Australian home is 230m2.

Considered planning was essential to achieve efficiency of space, while creating an overall feeling of relaxed informality, and allowing gardens and light to permeate. Spatial generosity is achieved through exacting alignments, scale, proportions and continuous uninterrupted planes.

Views and connections from one room to into another enhance this generosity and provide an intricate flow of space. A compact footprint reduces the embodied energy of the construction.


Materials Suitable to Site

Materials for this compact home were selected for quality, longevity and site suitability.

Cladding, decking and new fences are radially sawn, inherently durable, regrowth Silvertop Ash and the brickwork is recycled.

Through texture, robust materials and form, the design expresses the erosion and weathering that the coastal site is subjected to.

The floor is burnished and internal textured brickwork corners are rounded, as is the inside of a shell. The wind, rain and sun act together to bleach hardwood cladding and decks to grey, while internal timber is smoothed and protected by hand finishes.



Orientation of the living spaces to the north on a tight site was achieved by the introduction of a courtyard.

Cross ventilation draws the reliable sea breeze over the insulated concrete slab and vents via the skylight as an effective night purge.

Air-conditioning is not required. The mass of the insulated brickwork and reverse brick veneer construction provides thermal stability, while carefully orientated double-glazing achieves high levels of natural daylight and thermal comfort.

On a site of 210m2 over half is permeable, reducing storm water runoff.

Rainwater from the roof is captured for use in the garden.

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