A decade ago, Peter Maddison never imagined ‘TV host’ would find a spot on his beaming resumé.
The multi award-winning architect and director of his own business, Maddison Architects, was contacted out of the blue by Foxtel about its upcoming local production, Grand Designs Australia, which had been adopted from the successful British show.
Maddison underwent several screen tests and won the casting directors over with his no-nonsense opinions.
“I had no idea what a screen test was, I’d never heard of Grand Designs,” Maddison told news.com.au ahead of the return of Grand Designs on Foxtel’s LifeStyle tonight at 8.30pm.
“I just told them what I thought of the house and they loved it. At the time, I thought I’d blown it because I was pretty rude. I wasn’t insulting anybody, but I was honest.
“Suddenly I was a finalist. I did an extra screen test and was offered the job, and I was perplexed.”
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Maddison almost turned it down after being told he’d need to be available for 120, 10-hour days a year.
“I was worried, I had to restructure my practice and make some changes here at my office,” he said.
“I almost didn’t take it. But my wife said to me one night, ‘Would you like your good friend John to get the job?’ And I said, ‘No way, he’s not as good as me.’ So I said yes, because I didn’t want to see my friends get it ahead of me,” he laughed.
Fast forward to 2021 and Maddison is fronting his ninth season of Grand Designs Australia, and it just so happens that the premiere episode airing tonight is his favourite design of the season – if not of all nine seasons.
Featuring retired architect Rob and his wife Sally, as well as their architect son Jack, the trio want to build a special home on a 100-acre dairy farm outside of the town of Mystery Bay, NSW, which pays respect to the ancient land it sits on.
They set out to design the home into a slope to reduce its visibility, while also connecting it to the nearby Mount Gulaga, a mountain of ancestral origin of the Yuin people, which holds particular significance for Indigenous women.
Rob and Sally go as far as to precisely position the centre line of their dining table with the top point of Gulaga.
“The home is not like, ‘Wowee, glitz and glamour.’ Architecture is moving away from that and searching for meaning or anything that’s well considered,” Maddison said.
“The way it connects to the land is meaningful. It sits in a significant Indigenous community. It’s a secret women’s business mountain, and the house is at 90 degrees to that mountain. It’s a very precise axis.
“There was a lot of emotion and collaboration; it refers to land in the history of Australia, and all the design ideas are original, not borrowed.
“So (the owners) have immersed themselves in learning about the culture and embodied it in the house.”
Watch Grand Designs Australia on Foxtel’s LifeStyle or On Demand. New Foxtel Now customers get a 10-day free trial to all packs. Sign up at foxtel.com.au
This season is one of the most emotional yet, with one episode following a home build ravished by fire only three weeks from the reveal.
And Maddison is there through all the trials and triumphs.
“You are invited into people’s secret lives. When I go to visit, I’m with the owners all day. I’m with them 10 hours a day, and probably about 60 hours all up,” Maddison said.
“I get quite friendly with the owners. Sometimes I’m asked my opinion, but I try to be mute, I don’t want to change the course of history.
“It’s just about being a good listener and a fly on the wall, and letting a story run on its own.”
Grand Designs Australia season 9 airs Wednesdays at 8.30pm on LifeStyle
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