“Going out on a high”: Peter Maddison on farewelling Foxtel’s Grand Designs Australia

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Plus: Kevin McCloud’s message to Maddison and what comes next

After 12 years of Grand Designs Australia, the iconic design show will be leaving Foxtel at the conclusion of its 11th season. Having been the show’s host since 2009, Peter Maddison will be leaving alongside it. 

When making the announcement, Foxtel executive head of entertainment Marshall Heald spoke about how proud he and the team were of the show, but confirmed that they wouldn’t be renewing the show “as we evolve our genre mix of local commissions to reflect our new multiplatform product offering.”

Whilst industry rumours suggest that the show will be coming back on a new network, nothing has been confirmed.

Mediaweek spoke to Maddison ahead of the final season launching on Januray 25th at 8.30pm on Foxtel.

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Season 11, Episode 1: Bushfire House

“When I started, I had no idea I’d still be here all these years later,” says Maddison. “My first contract was for three years, after that I thought it would be all done and dusted – then they kept renewing the contract.

I think in another world Foxtel would have liked to have kept going, but they’ve got priorities. The show still has a lot of cachet, we’re certainly going out on a high.”

Maddison says that the response to the news of Grand Designs Australia coming to an end has been humbling, with messages of support coming in from all over the globe. One of the people who reached out was Grand Designs UK host, Kevin McCloud.

“He gave a few words of support – Go get ‘em, Pete. He’s been a great supporter all the way through, he’s also given me space and encouraged me to do my own thing. I think he would have loved to have done the Australian series, but it was impossible with him being over there. 

“After we first met many years ago, there was great magic between us, a great affinity. I think he respects that I’m a practising architect and I brought my own voice to the Australian scene. It’s great to have his support.”

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Kevin McCloud and Peter Maddison

The first episode of the final season marks a major milestone for Maddison and the team: the 100th episode of Grand Designs Australia. To celebrate reaching 100 episodes, Maddison has been counting down his favourite builds over on his Instagram page

“I don’t think Foxtel realised a few months ago that it would be the 100th episode, but when we started talking about it, we thought it was something to celebrate. So we’ve done a review of some of my favourite episodes. 

“I remember Kevin’s 100th episode was a tower house in London. It would have been about six or eight storeys with a living room on top, it’s a great episode. I remember thinking, ‘Gee, I wonder if I’ll ever make 100 episodes’ – this was about eight years ago. They really celebrated in the UK, So we’re doing it here and building hype with this countdown on Instagram.”

Back down under, Maddison says that there are a few characteristics that make Australian architecture stand out amongst the crowd. 

We’re go-getters here in Australia, and I think that’s what hallmarks the architecture in this country. We’re adventurous and alternative thinkers, a bit irreverent to what’s gone on in the past, and we’re trying to find our own voice and our own identity. You’ve got to admire that.”

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Maddison in Coober Pedy

Having had a front row seat to the evolution of Australian housing over the last decade, Maddison says there are some key changes that he’s noticed during his time with Grand Designs Australia

Sustainability is no longer a bolt on, and is core to the way people think about housing today. It’s in everyone’s psyche. 

“Everyone knows about collecting their own power, everyone wants to collect their own water, they want to an energy efficient house that’s cheap to run.

“Sizes have come down, which is a big one – the aspiration to build mega buildings is not so desirable. 10 years ago, the average house size was 267 square metres, it’s getting knocked down on average to about 260.

“I also think the materials we build from are more honest now. There are less slick finishes being applied to buildings and more materials as you find them – whether it be brick work that we’re not painting, we’re not rendering over things, not putting glossy paint on things.

“10 years is not a lot in the history of this country, but there is certainly a more responsible attitude in terms of what people are building, which is a good thing.”

When asked about whether the future holds any more TV gigs for him , Maddison says that he would “certainly be open to another opportunity,” but has other work to turn his attention to now.

“I’ve developed these skills over the last 10 years, so it’d be an easy bolt on for me to do something that uses those skills. Working for the camera is not easy, it was a very shaky, nervous start for me. 

If something came up, if it was a good fit with who I am and my core values, it would be attractive – you never know. 

“But I’ve got my architectural practice which I love, and I do a lot of extracurricular work for nonprofits, so that will keep me engaged – and I get to play with my dog a bit more!”

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