Grand Designs Live Melbourne 2014
I have a confession to make…
… I do rather like attending a home-show! Whether they’re industry-specific and more of a trade-show for construction-professionals, or a show aimed at DIYers and the average-joe, I’m all for it! There is always plenty to learn – not only from exhibits showcasing new products, but perhaps more so from the presentations by leaders in their fields. Earlier this year I wrote about my day at DesignBuild Expo, focusing on “Sustainability Day”.
Last week I attended Grand Designs Live in Melbourne. It was rather a last-minute decision, but I’m so glad I went. It is basically the Grand Designs Empire (both UK and Australian versions) branching out to include this event, with the big drawcard(s) being that Kevin McCloud and Peter Maddison present live. There were three stages with presenters on all day over the three days “Grand Theatre”, “Design Stage” and the “Sustainability Stage”. The exhibits were mainly grouped in four categories: ‘Kitchens and Bathrooms’, ‘Building’, ‘Outdoors’ and ‘Interiors’ which gave a great overview, and there was also “Ask An Expert” kiosks, an Interior Design Competition showcase of some emerging designers, and Book Signing too of course. Plenty to see and do!
I spent most of my time at the “Sustainability Stage”, naturally, as there were some great speakers and topics.
I was really keen on seeing Dick Clarke (Envirotecture and Alternative Technology Association) speak about the book he edited “How To Rethink Building Materials“. I’d recently purchased this book, and haven’t digested the whole lot yet, but was so excited (yes I’m a nerd!) when I heard of its release. It was the book I was waiting for – over 40 of Australia’s (and the world’s) experts with up to date knowledge about how we can make more sustainable choices when it comes to the materials we select. Dick Clarke is very passionate about what he does, and he gave a great overview of the book, and then showed a couple of examples of different houses he’d designed where the material choices were very different – dependent on the specific site location, owners and particular requirements.
Rethinking Building Materials
I also enjoyed the presentation by Chris Philpot (Planet Ark) & Sven Maxa (Maxa Design) about Building and Designing with Responsibly Sourced Wood. Planet Ark are currently running a “Make It Wood – Do Your World Some Good” campaign to promote awareness about consumers buying timber products ethically. Look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label as certification that the wood was responsibly sourced. Sven Maxa showed a house he’d designed where most of the timber sourced from the project was either recycled/reclaimed timber, or from plantation sources.
My other favourite presentation was Peter Maddison (Maddison Architects and Grand Designs Australia Host) who presented Sustainability: Case Studies and Principles. He showed us a number of interesting examples of homes from around Australia, which had all featured on Grand Designs Australia, each with their own sustainability agendas. I asked Peter if after four or five seasons of filming so many inspirational homes around Australia, if (as an Architect) he had learned anything that he wished he’s known before? He answered that he is always learning, that we are all always learning, and perhaps some of what he has seen has informed his own architectural practice (as it all becomes part of our subconscious). I realised I hadn’t yet seen any of the Australian series, so promptly headed off to the Merchandise stall to get myself a box-set of inspiration!
I hadn’t paid the big bucks to see Kevin on the big stage, but happened to catch part of his presentation from the back, along with a growing crowd of gawkers. I loved that he emphasised that “Grand” Designs are about grand ideas, not necessarily grand budgets, nor a grand scale. He showed one of his personal favourite “grand designs” which was a community housing project for single-mothers, that whilst not a grand architectural endeavour, over the years had done so much for the social-sustainability for improving the lives of these women and children that it had a special place in his heart…and that is one of the things that people love about Kevin.
So what else is it that we all love about Grand Designs? I recently asked on social media, and got some great responses – there is a lot of love for Kevin out there! It seems we like Kevin for telling it like it is, for engaging the viewer in the journey, and being able to change his opinion. He is obviously intelligent and passionate about telling these stores about people and their homes, and personally I love that he is an Architectural-ambassador of sorts…helping to promote the value of good design and smart decisions. He is also a Sustainability Ambassador – although he doesn’t like the word “sustainability” as it is over-used these days. But his gem of a book that I only recently discovered (and now highly recommend!) is “Kevin McCloud’s Principles of Home: Making a Place to Live” which is essentially a manifesto for a better (more sustainable) way to live; both inspiring and practical! If grand designs is your “architectural porn”, then this might just be your new ” architectural bible”!?!
Ultimately we all love the stories behind these grand designs – the before and after, the journey, the dream, the things that went wrong, the innovative ideas, the blown-out budgets and timeframes – but without the dramatics that tends to be compulsory on other “reality” shows. We love this, because architecture IS about people and how they live!
Thanks Kevin. (And Peter). Now I’m off to catch-up on a gazillion hours of old series…it is “research” of course :o)
And as always, if I can assist in any way with your very own “Grand Design”, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Are you a Grand Designs and Kevin McCloud fan too? Tell me, what is it that you LOVE the most about the show? (Please reply in the comments box below).
Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. Don’t forget you can click here to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!