Concrete creates haven on Mermaid Beach

The durability and permanency of off-form concrete construction has helped a young family achieve its dream of an idyllic beach lifestyle on Queensland’s Gold Coast. 

The architectural form and choice of materials for the Mermaid Beach residence is all about creating privacy and protection - both from the noise and frenzy of the busy street at the rear, and the sometimes harsh environment of the beach and ocean directly out front. From the street, the home’s concrete façade is austere and deliberately formidable, but it masks an interior that is light, airy, open and eminently livable.

Although the building form itself is relatively simple, the level of detail and expression in the concrete ensures this home presents to the world as anything but ordinary. 

“We like to reduce things down to their core idea, but we’re not minimalists. That’s partly where the idea of scabbling came from,” says Andrew Piva of B.E Architecture. 

Scabbling involves ‘roughing up’ the concrete surface either by hand or machine to create a uniquely textured finish. On this house, the technique has been used on the bulk of the external walls. 

The concrete mix includes white quartz, the effect of which is to soften and lighten the finish. 

 “One of the things we like about scabbling is that it expresses an element of craftsmanship,” Piva says. 

“There’s an accuracy and precision (to the finish) that comes about because someone is doing it by hand.”

On the off-form sections, the evidence left behind by bolt holes and form-liners creates another level of detail.

It’s a very honest building - you can see how it’s been built. We’re celebrating that,” says Piva.


Architect: B.E Architecture

Images: Andy MacPherson

Builder: Pase Building

Main concrete elements:
in-situ slab floors and walls (a mix of scabbled and off-form externally, and off-form internally)

Main benefits:
- Strength and durability in a harsh coastal environment
- Aesthetics, including its ability to create a patina

Internally, off-form concrete has been juxtaposed with other materials and finishes, among them timber flooring and v-groove lining boards for the ceilings, to continue the external dialogue.

These internal concrete elements include an off-form feature wall in the living room, concrete heads, bands in the floor that extend past the window-line to the outside, and a stunning circular stairwell.

The addition of a skylight in the stairwell, cleverly placed around the perimeter of the ceiling, invites a wonderful and ever-changing play of light on the off-form concrete surface. At the top of the stairs, an opposing wall of glass frames an internal courtyard – a haven of privacy, light and natural greenery that counter-balances the hard-form materials. (The walls of this courtyard are a continuation of the interior off-form concrete walls.)

The courtyard also effectively defines the bedroom zones in the upper level – parent’s master on one side and three additional bedrooms (one converted to a yoga room) on the other. A second, smaller internal courtyard space has been created closer to the street-end, overlooked by a bathroom and the yoga room.This approach of creating purposeful, protected, light-filled voids has also been applied on the ground level.

The pool is located within yet another enclosed space, protected from sea breezes on one side and sounds of the urban street environment on the other. Back upstairs, the master bedroom adjoins a concrete-framed verandah overlooking the beach, with a judiciously placed cut-out in the concrete ceiling allowing light to flood the internal space.

The simplicity and balance of form of this home is most evident when looking up at it from the beach. It appears as one concrete block stacked on top of another.But this simplicity of form belies a thoughtful and carefully crafted design and execution, one that will no doubt stand the test of time and deliver a wonderful living experience for its lucky occupants.