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  • Words by Mr Nick Compton

Who doesn't dream of their own beach retreat, opening onto sea and sand with nothing to get in the way? Who doesn't summon up Bali, Malibu or the Mumbles, surfboards, Labradors and beach towels at times of high stress or high wind-chill factor? We all want a beach house. And there is pretty much a beach house to suit everyone.

From steamy huts to sturdy windswept cottages, corrugated shacks to grandiloquent piles, the beach house is peculiarly specific to its place; they tend to follow the local vernacular and respond to the local climate and conditions. They sit on stilts or seek shelter from the storm. Beach-house styles are many and various but for the past 50 or so years, one particular style has held sway: the modernist glass box. As the American Arts & Architecture magazine noted way back in 1955: "Most vacation houses are designed to work, roughly, like a camera: a box, glazed on one side, with the glass wall pointed at the view."

It is a style you see explored and extrapolated on from Camps Bay to Camber Sands, Punta del Este to Perth but most notably in California and the northeast coast of the US. Messrs Andrew Geller and Charles Gwathmey redefined the beach house in the 1950s and 1960s, creating a string of modest modernist gems on Martha's Vineyard and Long Island and the beach-house form has been played with by architects ever since, from Mr Richard Meier to Messrs Álvaro Siza, Tadao Ando and Marcio Kogan. Some things stay constant though; the urge to bring in as much of the sea as possible; the colour, the smell, the breeze and the bouncing light.