Bar & Leisure Focus: On the beach

​​​While many people do like to be beside the seaside, seafront environments demand buildings that are robust but sensitive, posing unique design challenges that are not replicated elsewhere

Edited By Toby Maxwell

JOHN MASEFIELD captured perfectly the challenge of the seaside environment when he wrote Sea-Fever – because alongside the pleasure of warm sand and blue sky, comes ‘the flung spray and the blown spume… Where the wind’s like a whetted knife’.

Even the most peaceful cove or sun-drenched promenade can become a windswept wilderness on a stormy day, bringing risks of wind damage and tidal surges, not to mention the damp drizzle that can permeate many building materials with ease. Any building on the coast will have to be built to withstand the weather, with added consideration given to the potential for erosion and even rising sea levels.

Coastal properties require resilient materials – in English seaside resorts there’s a reason why balconies crumble to rust and rendering is forced open by salt crystals; when the wind not only blows hard but comes laden with salty water, durability is vital.

On the other hand, just throwing up something robustly overengineered but dull is never going to be the answer – seaside environments are aesthetically sensitive, with tourists drawn by unspoilt beauty and a taste of nature, and there are fragile wildlife habitats to consider. While there are some statement buildings that break all the rules, blending in is frequently more important than standing out, with authorities more likely to approve of light-touch architecture that fits gently into the coastal eco-system.

Here are some beach front projects that navigate the need for both substance and style.

Under the Tree Beach Club, China

VARIOUS ASSOCIATES took inspiration from traditional Chinese craft skills and from nature itself while creating a forest of elegant treeshaped canopies to cocoon tourists in their shade while they enjoy a relaxing drink at the Under the Tree Beach Club.

The canopies have been developed by taking inspiration from traditional Chinese crafting skills. Image Credit: SFAP

The architect was commissioned to redesign the beach club at The Sanya EDITION, the Marriott-owned luxury brand’s first hotel in China, on Hainan Island off the country’s southern coast. The 700 sq m club, with bars and sunken seating booths, opened last year, and was designed to provide a relaxing and social area linking the hotel with the beach and sporting activities. Set among the coconut groves, the bamboo structures provide a natural, filtered shade and blend seamlessly with the living trees without damaging them. The organic shapes, each one completely individual, were woven on-site by teams of skilled craftspeople.

As day turns to night, the relaxed bar areas come alive with music and the internal lighting inside the steel skeletons of the bamboo ‘trees’ provides gentle mood lighting.



Various Associates

Meama, Georgia

GEORGIA COFFEE BRAND Meama tasked Khmaladze Architects with the challenge of creating a temporary coffee shop on the beach that could withstand the winds and weather without needing any permanent foundations. The result, Meama Collect, on the beach at Batumi, was a coffee and cocktail bar inspired by the actions of the waves and winds themselves.

Image Credit: Giorgi Khmaladze

Giorgi Khmaladze, founder of Khmaladze Architects, explained that he wanted to create a structure that would be in dialogue with its surroundings, constantly reacting to the rhythms of the breeze along the seashore rather than fighting to withstand it. Working closely with a structural engineer, he created a 100 sq m dynamic canopy, with belts of fabric that interact with the constant wind, rippling like the waves – strong enough to withstand inclement weather while having a single anchor point and being easy to assemble and disassemble during the winter.

Image Credit: Giorgi Khmaladze

Standing in the middle of the beach, between the sea and the busy Batumi boulevard, Meama Collect includes a round bar arranged around the structural core and a platform with flexible, reconfigurable seating. At night, the canopy lights up, drawing visitors with its soft light.



Khmaladze Architects

Structural Engineer


Seaside Floating Pavilion, China

IF ANY REMINDER was needed of the harshness of the maritime environment, visitors to the Seaside Floating Pavilion, at the easternmost tip of the Jiaodong Peninsula in China, have a fantastic view of the natural bay, complete with an abandoned fishing boat that ran aground in a storm.

Image Credit: Chen Hao, Sun Xiangzhou

Designed by Hua Li, principal architect at Trace Architecture Office, the compact pavilion doesn’t actually float, but its geometric base shapes have echoes of bathing hut wheels and sea plane floats, suggesting a light touch on the environment. The bottom circular ‘wheel’ contains toilet facilities, while the main café area is raised from the ground out of reach of tidal surges.

Image Credit: Chen Hao, Sun Xiangzhou

The 173 sq m café building, which was finished in 2021, has three levels, with different surfaces as visitors climb. The ground level is finished in plain grey microcement, a material with low permeability to protect from damp, but providing a light and strong covering over the steel structure that creates the impressive cantilever above. The first floor, the main café area with its open viewing platform, has sliding glass walls and a light travertine floor, while the final viewing level above it is finished in whitewashed stone, creating varied views and experiences along the visitor journey from the beach to the sky.


Rongcheng Good Luck Corner Tourism Resort Construction Bureau

TAO (Trace Architecture Office)

Structural consultant
MA Zhigang

Main contractor
Weihai Construction Group

Image Credit: Chen Hao, Sun Xiangzhou

Antasia Beach Club, Cyprus

ANTASIA BEACH CLUB links the beautiful sandy Sodap beach in Paphos with the promenade above, and was the result of an architectural competition by the Municipality of Paphos. The building, which opened last year, was designed by Cyprian studio Psomas Studios of Architecture, with interiors by architect Baranowitz + Kronenberg.

Aymana Ganina And Stelios Antoniou

The organically shaped structure has two concrete platforms, linked by a helix staircase that allows guests to descend from promenade, to terrace, to beach, taking in the views over the bay. Lightweight rooftop canopies with hyperbolic geometries, covered in tensile fabric, twist around the staircase, providing shade to the terrace during the daytime and soft, internal lighting at night.

Psomas Studio Of Architecture

The interiors represent a celebration of marine life and the rich history of Paphos, with a sea of white scales introduced throughout the space resonating with the underwater life beneath. A playful interpretation of the natural geometry of fish scales, a mix of opaque and occasional reflective finishes provides a subtle glimmer of movement, while naturally coloured materials, from bleached scrap wood tables to the white terrazzo floor, contrast elegantly with the exposed concrete ceiling.


Municipality of Paphos

Psomas Studio of Architecture

Structural Engineer
Baranowitz + Kronenberg

Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, Mexico

FOUR SEASONS Resort Tamarindo, which opened in November, has been carefully designed to not only showcase the best of Mexican architecture, design and craft, but to blend seamlessly into a vast nature reserve in Jalisco, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. One of the highlights of the project is the Coyul restaurant, perched right on the edge of the coastal ridge, with breathtaking views to the beach below.

Aymana Ganina And Stelios Antoniou

Using local building materials and skills was a huge focus of the development. To create a project with a timeless feel, the architects specified local stone laid down by artisans to pre-Hispanic traditions that combine natural earth tones, regional colours and textures. Even the cement was especially formulated to be an almost exact colour match to the sand on the beach below, helping the 157-room resort to blend into the landscape. Materials were selected for their resilience to the salt-laden air, including cement, lava rock and wood, all commonly used in the region.

Coyul restaurant features dishes by renowned Mexican Chef Elena Reygadas using zero-mile ingredients grown on the resort’s onsite 35-acre farm.


Four Seasons, Paralelo 19

LegoRocha (Victor Legorreta & Mauricio Rocha), Uribe Krayer and NODO Taller

Mario Schjetnan

Restaurant interiors
Héctor Esrawe and Bibiana Huber

Interior Design & Art Consultan
Uribe Krayer, Estudio Esterlina

Traditional crafts
Ensamble Artesano and Taller Maya

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