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wizard of Oz

With his St Andrews' Beach Residence, architect Nik Karalis has built himself a retreat which responds to the spectacular scenery of Australia's Mornington Peninsula without interfering with the topography of the site

To avoid further damaging the dunes the house hovers above the natural contours of the site, with a floating concrete slab platform supported on piles.North, east and west elevations are timber clad, giving the impression of a washed-up crate made to transport antiquities across the seas.

To the south, a 30m long simple galvanised frame glass facade mirrors the landscape.

Structural columns are set back from the glazing, and the doors are full-height sliding glass facade panels.

On the ocean side, the scale of the stairs down to the beach responds to the enormity of the landscape.Natural vegetation and sand movement will eventually overwhelm the bottom stairs, blending with them to absorb the house into the landscape formations and re-vegetation.

During the 1930s much of the peninsula's natural vegetation was either cleared for grazing or cut to provide fuel for lime kilns, causing damage to the existing dunes.The shifting sands have only recently been stabilised by the advent of tea trees and re-vegetation.

On the north facade panelled shutters unfold to let north light into the bedrooms and expose views of the Mornington Peninsular ranges.

The access ramp on the north elevation terminates at a gap between living and bedroom wings. Here the view is introduced for the first time: a spectacular ocean frontage and a valley created by dunes.

Interior spaces are simply planned. Raising the structure on piles has allowed the architect to keep the internal spaces clear, unhindered by the complexities of a gradient site.

The sheer wall of floor-to-ceiling glass which runs along the length of the house is an epic gesture, bringing the view of the ocean, dunes and sky into the box.

As a retreat, the beach house can remain clear of the clutter of everyday life. The space is both uncompromising and personal: a serene environment, designed for entertaining, contemplation and rest.

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