With my search for employment still continuing it has meant that along with writing countless job applications my local video store has been getting a fair bit of a workout. So having got up to speed with Big Love, Parks and Recreation, Community (which is my new favourite) and Breaking Bad I finally stumbled on Grand Designs Australia which had finally made it onto the store’s shelves. As a big fan of the original and hearing good things about the Australian version it was a no-brainer to take a look and review it in the process.
Like its UK counterpart there is a diverse range of projects on offer ranging from a precast house to a prefab house and a house with no walls or windows with everything in-between. What struck me about some of the projects was the sheer size of some of the projects, with the Hamptons House, the Clovelly House, the Cottage Point House and the obscenely large Indented Head House all being prime examples of houses that seemed unnecessarily large for those who were to occupy them. The Cottage Point House was so big in fact that the cost of construction pretty much meant that the owner couldn’t afford to live in the end product.
These projects were obviously contrasted by one of the cleverest and smallest projects by the brilliant executed Very Small House, which coincidentally featured the only architect (that appeared on camera) in the whole series in the form of Domenic Alvaro whose house it was. Also contrasting those oversized houses were the inspirational Bushfire House and Lake Bennett House, which in my book were standout projects as well. Overall it was a good mix of projects in a variety of locations that made for a very entertaining first up season.
Following in the rather large footsteps of Kevin McCloud was always going to be difficult but Peter Maddison acquitted himself with aplomb in the first series of Grand Designs Australia. Having an architect as a host of the Australian version of the program was a good move by those in charge as Maddison’s architectural and building knowledge shows through and this knowledge in a clear and precise manner.
One bonus feature that appears on the DVD is a series of “Host Tips” that accompany each project in which Maddison explains a certain aspect of the construction process (ie. cost planning) in more detail using the project just as a reference point. I found these tips really informative and it really showcases Maddison in his best light.
One criticism that can probably be aimed at the host is that there wasn’t enough critical analysis or comment on why some of the houses were over the top in terms of size. The idea of McMansions and having unnecessarily large house is a problem with the Australian housing landscape and it would have been good to see Maddison discuss this issue both with the viewer and those building the house. Overall it is a good performance from someone who has never been in front of a camera before and surely will become more accomplished in future series.
Grand Designs Australia is a great edition to the original and gives Australian viewers a chance to taken in project that are relevant to their own climate and situation. One can only hope that it makes its way on to FTA television so that those without Foxtel can appreciate some of the projects being built in this country. What makes Grand Designs work so well is the variety of methods in which people undertake their projects but from my point of view I wouldn’t seeing the faces of a few more architects.