The future of Australian housing – Peter Maddison

Peter Maddison the host of Grand Designs Australia is our guest with a sneak peek at what we can expect to see in the new series and he talks about the influences on Australian housing design.
Kevin:  The new season of Grand Designs Australia is opening on Lifestyle. Peter’s back – Peter Maddison who’ll join me in just a moment. Peter’s back with a new series, which starts Thursday week, the 27th. But leading up to that, there’s Kevin McCloud’s Top 10 Grand Designs Australia, which premiers one week before – that’s this April 20th at 8:30 on Foxtel’s Lifestyle. But joining me to talk about the series itself, series seven, who would have thought, Peter?
Welcome back.
Peter:  Exactly. Hey, Kevin. Very nice of you to have me back on your show. Who would have thought? Eight years ago, I started the damn thing, and it’s been a big part of my life over the last eight years. It’s taken eight years to make seven series, and it’s just gone in a flash, but gee, it’s been a lot of fun.
Kevin:  The interesting thing is… And I’ve watched a number of reruns, because they do rerun them, as they do with…
Peter:  Occasionally, very occasionally.
Kevin:  …All the good ones. They get a chance to have a second stab it. But it’s timeless, Peter. You look at it and you think “Wow, some of the stuff, some of this architecture that I’m seeing here is absolutely timeless.” Is that what you look for in these things?
Peter:  I think that’s a product of new, experimental, and inventive architecture. It becomes a period piece in itself. You can’t frame it with another period of architecture, therefore it becomes a hallmark to something that lasts a long time. That just goes with territory of being inventive and creative doing housing the breaks all barriers.
If I look back to the first house we ever did, those seven years ago, Callignee Bushfire House is the first episode that we made and that today still stands up as having a great quality about it that doesn’t date; it still stands on its own two feet. I think that goes with a lot of Australian architecture: it’s inventive and it’s true to its own person.
Kevin:  You mention there inventive building systems, design, but what about some of the new materials that come in, does that allow you to expand the creativity of what you do?
Peter:  You bet. This season, you’ll see that technology – both the way materials are made and how they’re applied and the skills that surround technology invention, and also the invention of drawing systems in 3D and then machines that can make things in 3D – has broken down a lot of the barriers in terms of what’s possible and what’s not.
This year, for instance, we’re doing a house in Kensington that the outside skin of the house, the outside cladding, is zigzag steel and is all free format. It’s like a woman’s drift doing a pirouette, and that’s how the house appears.
We’re doing another house that’s all made of canvas that’s stretched over the top of the house. The canvas is made over in Manila. We go over and follow that material being made in Manila. It comes back, and there’s this big tensile fabric structure in Queensland.
So materials, the way they’re made, certainly it breaks barriers in terms of what housing can be.
Kevin:  I guess material brings in those additional elements, but what about some of the more traditional designs that probably get influenced from overseas or even by people coming in from overseas? Like our iconic Queenslander home as an example. I believe you have an example of that in the series.
Peter:  Yes, the first episode, which is on the 27th – which is what you mentioned – of April, the one we open up with, is based on the traditional Queenslander. It’s a house in Hamilton, just in the inner suburbs of Brisbane.
Interestingly, the owners, the two guys who own this house, have a Japanese restaurant in town and they’re heavily into the whole aesthetic city of Japanese architecture, but they wanted a house that related to Brisbane. So they engaged Yo Shimada, who is a Japanese architect, teamed him up with a local architectural practice, Phorm Architecture in Brisbane, and they’ve reinvented what the Queenslander is.
It has a lot of the qualities of the Queenslander but it’s all out of steel, this house, whereas the Queenslander is traditionally all out of timber, but it has a lot of the qualities that make housing relevant in the kind of climate that Brisbane sits.
So it’s a fascinating story of different cultures and invention making a house that relates well to a location. It’s a cracker episode, and we’re leading with that one this year.
Kevin:  Fantastic. Of course, we’ve really enjoyed your six series so far, and we’re about to enjoy the seventh one. Kevin McCloud – of course, of the original Grand Designs – is launching the entire series with a top ten. Tell me about that.
Peter:  Well, this was lined up some time ago, about a year and a half ago. Foxtel had the idea that it would be great to get us together, because we are good mates and a good way of bonding and bringing the brand and the excitement of the same show being made in a number of countries together.
So they got me over to just out of London at Christmas, a place called Esher. We took a house, a very beautiful mid-century house, and I went over and Kevin selected his ten favorite Aussie episodes. I had them all made onto paper slides, and we had a traditional old-fashioned slide show in this wonderful mid-century house just out of London.
We filmed for about 12 hours nonstop. They just let us go, and we were ranting and raving and arguing and arm-wrestling and drawing. We had and a great time, and we just let the cameras go.
I haven’t seen the cut episode, but I believe it’s very good because there’s a genuine engagement with us with the houses we’ve shown so far in Australia, or ten of his favorites. It’s great to relive those episodes, and I think the audience, if they’ve watched the show over the years, will be pleased to see those episodes discussed. I actually went away and did some updates on what’s happened since the shows went to air, so it should be a good episode.
Kevin:  It should be fantastic. Were you surprised at some of his selections?
Peter:  Not really. He’s got pretty good taste, unfortunately. He’s okay.
Kevin:  Would you have chosen the same ten?
Peter:  Some of them, I was not so enamored with. Most of them I would agree with. I think he went for variety, a great, great contrast in the house types. Some of them I think are a little bit more predictable than others, but they’re all great episodes.
We’re splitting hairs, really. Of the 65 we’ve made, there are probably ten that I think are very, very good – and other people have as well. A lot of the shows we do end up winning awards in various industries – in the timber industry or steel industry or architectural or interior design industry – so they’re generally high caliber, and not necessarily expensive but just really inventive and creative places that have a relevance to the owners. That’s the key thing.
No, it was great to relive those, and I would agree with most of Kevin’s picks.
Kevin:  It’s a great model, isn’t it, the Grand Designs model, the program itself? It’s now aired in number of countries. I think it’s in New Zealand as well as Australia, isn’t it?
Peter:  I think it’s sold to 12 countries, Kevin. They must be a bit bored over there, or maybe they find the Australian lifestyle… It wouldn’t be me that’s for sure. Maybe there’s something about our show that works.
I think it’s 12 countries. It goes to are Asia, America, South Africa, Belarus, Denmark, U.K., of course. I don’t know them all. Foxtel sell it on. Yes, it has pretty good engagement around the world.
Kevin:  Do you get recognized when you go overseas?
Peter:  Well… I went to New Zealand recently and I was trying to get through customs and I got up to the passport counter, and I was stopped by the official, and they stood up. Often I know they’ve worked out I’ve left an orange in the bag. I’m going to go off, and they’re going to find an orange I just should have got rid of at pest control desk.
Instead of that, they said, “I know you,” in their New Zealand accent, and it ended up in a great conversation.
Kevin:  It’s wonderful.
Peter:  Yes, it’s very nice. Most people have a good reaction to the show. Most people find it compelling viewing and have a good story to tell and remember the details. Yes, that’s rewarding.
Kevin:  Peter, I look forward to watching you and Kevin. That’s on the 20th of April, coming up this Thursday, on Foxtel’s Lifestyle, and then the Thursday after, the new series, series seven, for Grand Designs Australia with Peter Maddison will hit the airwaves.
All the best, mate. Great talking to you, and let’s try and not make our next interview for series eight. Let’s make it before then.
Peter:  That sounds like a great idea. You know my number?
Kevin:  Yes, I’ll get my people to talk to your people.
Peter:  Okay. Lovely chatting.

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