The Historic Houses Trust in Sydney have been running a series of lectures based around different architecture styles both then and now. I attended the talk on Bungalows a few weeks ago and recently attended the session on the Beach Shack. It’s been a long dream of mine to own a house on the beach. I don’t mean a beach house, I mean a house right on the beach. You know, where you step off your verandah and on to the sand and it’s more about the location and lifestyle than the size of the house and it’s interiors.
I am definitely a warm weather person and I love the water. We will go for a drive into the countryside and my husband will say, “Look at that, isn’t if beautiful?” Mmmm, I can agree it’s pretty, but give me a water vista any day and I’m happiest.
So I was keen to hear the history of the beach shack as presented by Design Historian, Dr Michael Bogle. A shack is a collage of found objects – materials assembled with no real form. It usually responds to the site and provides shelter. A hut, however is more structured usually made from precut uniform materials. It could possibly feature architectural conventions such as gables and doors. Many huts became shacks as extra rooms and areas were added to the original structure.
Stockton Bight outside Newcastle has a shack community which was erected after World War 2. There are 11 shacks known as Tin City which are on 99 year squatters’ leases and no new shacks can be built nor can destroyed shacks be replaced. This area was used for several scenes in the Mad Max movie.
Australian Artist Ian Fairweather who became reclusive in his latter years lived in a shack on Bribie Island just north of Brisbane.
Bribie was a favourite haunt of mine in my latter teenage years. We used to go sailing there as it was an easy drive from my home in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. When I started working, I would pack my beach bag and my dog into the car on my day off and head on up to Bribie for a few hours of sun worshipping before having an icecream and heading home.
I think it’s that carefree life that we desire that suits so well to life in a beach shack. But there’s not many real shacks left these days. Council Inspectors and Park Rangers have put a stop to these haphazard buildings. The appeal of shifting things around, framing the view and the sense of freedom and pleasure this beach combing lifestyle gives have been banned from our lives, as they don’t conform or are deemed to be dangerous.
The new beach houses are more like our suburban homes plonked on a block of land facing the sea. The shack has a connection with the landscape and has a holiday or relaxed feel, whereas a home eludes to a regimented life. I guess we all get to an age where we long for something of our past. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different.
I’d love to hear your stories of life in beach shacks or huts.
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