24 hours with Peter Maddison from Maddison Architects

Melbourne-based architect Peter Maddison splits his days between running his busy boutique architectural practice and his role as host of Grand Designs Australia. He shares a day in the life of running Maddison Architects while moonlighting as a television host.

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Peter Maddison shares a day in his life of running a busy architectural practice and hosting Grand Designs Australia.

Since Peter launched Maddison Architects in 1989, the practice has delivered more than 300 commercial and residential projects, and won 56 architectural awards.

‘How am I going to run my business?’ was his first thought when he successfully auditioned as host of Grand Designs Australia five years ago, a commitment that requires close to 150 filming days a year. Thanks to a dedicated team and fellow directors, his architectural business successfully continues to deliver high-calibre projects.

Making a splash

6:00am:The first thing I do when I wake up is make myself a hot drink with apple cider vinegar and honey, which my wife’s convinced me has great health benefits.

I’m a Brighton Iceberger, so four mornings a week I swim before work, regardless of the weather. I’m in the water by 7am and swim one and a half kilometres without a wetsuit, right through the year. I’ve lasted two winters so far.

I’ll usually have breakfast at the Brighton Yacht Club – porridge, a banana and a café latte – and read The Age. That gets me off to an amazing start to the day.

Morning in the office and TV commitments

8.00am:I’ll drive to my office in South Melbourne. I’ve been in the same building since I started my practice 25 years ago. There’s a lot to do to keep the wheels spinning on my business. Currently there’s seven people working with me and I’m at quite an interesting stage of my architectural career because two of my fellow directors are about to take on a partnership role.

This morning I’ll spend a couple of hours catching up with everyone and checking where the work is at. We’re now working on a retail upgrade at Perth City Square; planning for the food and beverage precincts of RMIT’s city campus; projects at Melbourne and Perth airports; and some residential projects. I’m very lucky to collaborate with some great people who are self-contained; they’ve been here for a while and know what they’re doing. I don’t wish to do the work for them but I get an understanding of where the projects are at and have strategic input.

10.30am:I’ve got a production meeting for Grand Designs, so I’ll drive to Fremantle Media in Richmond. Our meetings can go between one and three hours.

This weekend I have a three-day shoot at Williamstown here in Melbourne for a building that’s been restored by a young couple and we’re reviewing how we’ll go about shooting this reveal over two or three days. This involves deciding how we start the episode, what issues we need to resolve to bring the story home and so forth. I’ve also got some voice-over work to do to fill in any gaps in the storyline.

Lunch, meeting and back to the office

1.00pm: If I’m in the office I’ll usually go with the team to Giddiup, a café in Clarendon Street, South Melbourne. But since I’m in Richmond today I’ll go to Rowena Parade Corner Store, my favourite lunch spot on this side of town. I’ve been going there since I started Grand Designs and gotten to know them very well so I don’t even need to order as I have the same meal every time. I don’t eat meat so I’ll have a BLT without the bacon – with egg, lettuce and tomato on Turkish bread, a coffee and a baklava pastry to finish.

2.00pm:I’ll drop in to see a couple of suppliers that make taps, tiles and furniture. Then I’ve got a meeting with a furniture manufacturer, Zuster, who I’m collaborating with on a new furniture range. We’ve been working on it for the past year and a half and we’re currently prototyping the first two items in the range.

On the way back to the office I’ll swing by Federation Square to check on the Cloud Canopy project we did, then on to Southbank to see the Eureka Skydeck at the Eureka Tower, which we’re kitting out with a new carpet, shopfront and upgrade.

5.00pm:Afterwards, I’ll go back to the office to answer emails. I get approached often to write articles, judge award shows or make an appearance for the various charities I’m involved with, such as Kids Under Cover and professional bodies such as the Australian Institute of Architects or the Property Council of Australia.

Social media is taking up more of my time these days, so I may do the updates for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and also my website.

I’m also getting my presentation ready for Grand Designs Live show that I co-host each year with Kevin McCloud, host of the British Grand Designs. We do one in Sydney and one in Melbourne in front of about 50,000 people.

There’s four people helping to manage my diary – my agent, the office manager at Maddison Architects, a production assistant from Fremantle Media and my wife, of course – but I think I need more help!

Family time

7.00pm:I usually work until about 7pm and get home about 7.30pm. Mondays and Tuesdays are alcohol-free days, so it’s straight into a glass of hot water with lemon. I have three kids at home; they’re all studying at university and hopefully there’s someone who hasn’t eaten yet to have dinner with.

Afterwards, I might walk one of the dogs around the block. I like the practical side of owning a home so I’ll potter around and fix anything in the house that needs repairing.

I also like mentoring the kids and tonight I’m booked in to help my daughter – who’s studying interior design – make a scale model of a terrace house and build a kitchen made out of cardboard.

Then I might watch half a movie and fall asleep by 11pm.

This article was first published in Business View magazine (Summer 2014). For more articles and interactivity, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our app, NAB Think.

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