In the classic 1966 movie The Endless Summer, two surfers “chase summer” from hemisphere to hemisphere as the seasons change. The movie inspired a generation of surfers—and appears to have inspired a few architects, too.
On the shores of New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula—not far from one of The Endless Summer’s shooting locations, actually—sits the Whangapoua Sled House. Designed by Crosson Clarke Carnachen Architects, on approach the house doesn’t look particularly noteworthy. It’s got the same weathered wooden slats and hurricane windows that are common along the Peninsula, where thousands of New Zealanders summer. But a closer inspection reveals that the house is perched on two massive wooden beams—“sleds”—that allow it to be dragged to different sites along the coast.
Though it hosts a family of five, the House takes up only 40 square meters along their beachfront lot. It’s designed like a submarine, where no square millimeter of space wasted. The kids’ bunk beds are edged with hidden cubbyholes, the facade pulls back to create an open patio, and a second-floor sleeping loft is accessed via wall-mounted ladder. The ladder continues up to a small square of roof deck. Two gravity tanks dominate the roofline, collecting rainwater for the bathroom below. It’s a beach house that uses only the bare minimum of space and materials, built for a self-aware generation of summer home owner.
The Sled House wasn’t exactly designed to chase the best waves up and down the coast, though. Rather, every new home along the Peninsula must be portable or temporary due to the severe erosion that’s eating away at the coast. It’s a common story throughout the world’s beaches, as overdevelopment and climate change transform the shape of our coastlines.