When he first got the call up to host Grand Design Australia, Peter Maddison wasn’t sure if he should even take on the job.
‘It was completely unexpected,’ he says. ‘I had a lot of nervousness about the role at the start, so it took about three to six months for me to come round to, after canvassing opinions from family and friends. Everyone encouraged me to do it.’
Fast-forward twelve years later to today, and the final season of the beloved show (as we know it) is wrapping up in just a few weeks.
Peter’s voice has helped shape the show from its inception. And while he appreciates the comments from strangers on the street that their mum, partner, or grandma ‘loves your show’, it has also been a huge commitment, with constant travel taking him away from family and his own practice, Maddison Architects – two things he’s been immersing himself in since filming ended.
A lot has changed in the world since the first Grand Designs Australia episode aired in 2010, and Peter says the projects featured in the latest season poignantly reflect that. He’s observed more passive underground houses that don’t need any heating or cooling, (something ‘novel’ back when he first started), more thoughtful, sustainable design, and a push towards 70s-style, and natural materials that exude a sense of warmth.
‘We’re seeing more people wanting to build differently because of the awareness and the change in climate,’ he adds.
There’s plenty he will miss about the gig. Namely, the incredible reveals when shooting the final scenes of an epic home, after seeing it built from the ground up, and the crew’s tradition of having a rowdy wrap party with the homeowners, ‘and seeing them absolutely exuberant.’
‘I’ve been grateful to be able to tell our story about the way I see architecture and design, and its importance, and celebrate that in the Australian context. So there’s a little bit of melancholy [that it’s ending].
‘But other things could well turn up’ Peter adds. ‘You never know what’s around the corner.’
When I’m going swimming in the ocean four mornings a week, I wake up at about 6:30am, and I’m in the water by 7:00am. I’m a Brighton Iceberger, so that’s my big way of starting the day. I get to chat with my fellow Icebergers [who swim off the Brighton Pier out of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club], tell some bad jokes and a bit of camaraderie before I go home. At home, I’ll have a coffee and quickly read the newspaper before heading off to work.
My office is in South Melbourne, so I’m very lucky to get to drive along Beach Road every day. I get to see the weather conditions across Port Phillip Bay and the great relief of looking into the distance and getting the fresh air before I go work a full day at Maddison Architects.
The first task is to touch base with all the staff. And if there’s not an office meeting on, I’ll go around checking in on the 20-30 plants I have in the office to make sure they’re happy! Then it’s just checking emails and I write a ‘to-do’ list every day to do. I usually put ‘O’ for office or ‘P’ for personal against each of the things on my hit-list. And I tick them off as I go. I try to be reasonably methodical.
I never bring my own lunch in. I consider lunchtime a luxury, so I generally try and go to a cafe. I’ve been working in South Melbourne for three decades, so I get like to get out of there – I have a favourite spot in Albert Park, I go to a deli there. I’m a vegetarian, so I like minestrone with a bit of fresh baguette, and come back to the office recharged.
Since the morning is normally for sorting out admin, in afternoons I’ll go to my drawing board and do some drawing work, putting pencil on paper. I’m the only one in the office that draws by hand, everyone else uses the computer.
I like to knock off later after everyone’s gone home. I find the hours between 6pm-7:30pm particularly productive for me, and that’s my wife’s biggest bugbear – my late nights. I’ve been like that ever since we got married. But it’s kind of the price you pay having your own business, I think.
When I get home, I normally go straight for a glass of wine, and I’m a bit of a South Australian wine buff. I’m also very lucky because my wife has been happy to make my dinners for the past 33 years – my lack of cooking is probably one of my great downfalls in life!
I’ve been surfing all my life, and my kids all surf too, so to unwind, I generally watch whatever surfing competitions are on. And if there’s something interesting on the [Foxtel] box, we’ll watch that too.
Recently I’ve also been doing some freehand drawings that are reminiscent of my last great holiday to Palm Springs. I did a sketch every day and I’m exploding a couple of them into larger works for this exhibition down at Qdos Gallery down in Lorne.
A philosophy I live and work by is…
That I’m not perfect. I often say this to clients, and they go ‘what do you mean, you’re an architect!’ But I’m human, and I’m going to make mistakes. The best thing to do is to plan for them, so having a contingency in life is always a good plan.
My best advice is…
Get a dog. We’ve just got our third it’s brought such joy to my whole extended family.
Watch the final episodes of Grand Designs Australia with Peter Maddison on Foxtel, Wednesdays at 8:30pm on LifeStyle, or on demand.