A secluded island off the coast of tropical north Queensland has a new kind of beach shack.
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Architect Renato D’Ettorre had always conceived of a beach shack as a “wobbly and rusticated” object, built from the flotsam and jetsam of materials to hand and accrued over time. When his clients requested a beach shack on a remote island off Far North Queensland, he was struck by the romance of it, and set about creating something altogether softer and quieter in aspect.
“I reworked the idea of the simplicity of a beach shack, and while not making the new shack extravagant in any way, it is certainly more refined,” says Renato from his eponymous Sydney-based practice
The simple plan runs to 100 square metres, similar to the size of existing shacks on the island. Designed to lock up and leave, rather like a box with fold down sides, the periphery of glass and timber can withdraw into pockets as the occupants arrive and open up. Then, walls disappear and daybeds, large cushions and hammocks spill out onto the sandy edges. A skin of plantation shutters doubles as a privacy screen and ventilated wall, while stone walls constructed from local granite form bookends to the piece.
“The guiding principle was to use glass when it’s windy and rainy, and shutters when it’s hot,” says Renato. The rooftop lantern allows for the expulsion of hot air, and some degree of ventilation when the house transforms into a sealed container.
The owners travel to the island by boat, with the final part of the journey in a rubber dinghy tender. All supplies accompany them for the duration. Quiet relaxation is the order of the day, with contemplation of the views east across a passage of shallow water to a neighbouring island’s forest-clad hillside high on the agenda.
Materials are natural and where possible local. Hardwood timbers and local granite wrap around the concrete base. Stone walls bookend the structure, and create a solid backdrop for the bedroom and bathroom. A long skinny slot window along the top edge of the stone offers views to the turquoise water beyond, while preserving modesty at head height. An al fresco shower rests against the stone.
With bushland on three sides and the water beyond to the east, orientation took second place to creating intense engagement with the various climatic conditions. The crisp, frilled edges of the gutter-less roof allow curtains of water to surround the house during torrential downpours. As Renato says, “It’s an enjoyable moment.”