Australia By Design, airing on TEN across Australia from July 2017, is an extensive study of architecture around Australia, with 80 projects featured throughout the series.
Residential homes, commercial spaces, and public places are all contenders to land a spot in the final episode, which determines the top 10 architectural statements of the year in each state and territory.
The Urban Developer recently sat down with the show’s host, Tim Horton, who gave further insight into his involvement with Australia By Design and what the series had to offer viewers.
Tim, please tell us a little about yourself and why you’ve decided to host Australia By Design?
TH: Well I’m an architect, and like a growing number of architects and designers, I know the future of Australian architecture lies in reaching out to more people. To do that means stripping away a lot of the professional language that gets in the way.
My day job with the NSW Architects Registration Board includes a role to promote a better understanding of architecture in the community, so it’s a perfect match. Of course, the challenge is to bring architecture to people without losing its meaning or purpose.
It’s about distilling the way architects think and work, and making sure we do not compromise by ‘dumbing it down’. Television is a great medium for this with great reach and a wide diversity in audience. And it’s such a lean medium—every second counts. TV makes Twitter’s 140 characters seem like indulgent long-form!
How did Australia By Design come about?
TH: A lot of the credit goes to the guys from MWC media – a small outfit that first ran a pilot in Tasmania with Mike Verdouw and Rebecca Fullerton for Southern Cross.
I got a call from Australian Capital Territory state government architect and an Australia By Design presenter Catherine Townsend to see if I’d play a part. Once I got talking with the producers, Network Ten picked it up as a national series!
It is a super ambitious show demonstrating 80 different architectural projects, which means 80 architects and homeowners, up to 80 judges and 16 presenters.
Logistically, this show has turned into something quite enormous. What it brings to television is a national ‘survey’ of the best contemporary architecture in Australia—big and small, modest and extravagant, public buildings and private retreats.
Each State Government architect is involved in the program as a guest judge. What is the role of the State Government architect and why was it important to involve them?
TH: Just like governments have a chief scientist or medical officer, almost every state and territory government has a government architect. Governments spend enormous amounts of public money on buildings and infrastructure each year.
Governments develop policies to help guide the industry delivering housing and schools, hospitals, childcare centres, bus shelters, train stations, light rail stops and the rest.
Let’s remember that building is a serious business. Whether it is safety in the cladding or wiring we use, or the quality of aged care facilities or schools that need to last—these are all things governments can do better at if they are given that expert advice.
How can governments find the right team via a competitive design process? What are the reuse options for a disused site? What is the best return to the community? These are issues that can be informed by having a chief architect inside government as options are being prepared for a Minister, or for Cabinet to consider.
Australia by Design is an unapologetic celebration of Australia’s best architecture. Why is it important to promote architecture in this country?
TH: Australian architecture is world class. What the show is revealing is Australian architecture has developed so many different characters thanks to a remarkably big and diverse country.
We have five climates in one landmass. In Canberra, it’s about capturing the precious sun on brick or concrete during sunny winter days. But in Darwin, it’s all about the big roof to keep the sun off and the rain out.
Head to Brisbane and you find this magical ‘sweet-spot’ where living outside can happen all year round. In Sydney and Melbourne it’s about being clever with space. Every square metre counts, and every square metre costs.
What was one of your most memorable projects on the show. Give us a little hint of what’s to come!
TH: Well, there was the time we were showing how the walls moved back on a Sydney house in the treetops to reveal the landscape beyond, and say something to camera about the ‘cool summer breezes,’ just as it bucketed down. We got soaked. That was definitely memorable.
But, the real surprise is how completely expert the homeowners and clients are. They know their buildings backwards and steer them like a boat, opening doors to catch cool morning air from the garden, and then close down as the sun arcs over.
They all have stories from the construction; near misses and things they never thought they could afford but now couldn’t live without.
The architects are generous with their time on this show, but the real heroes are the homeowners who have lived the inevitable ups and downs; doubted and trusted their architects, tackled and loved their builders, groaned their way through the Council approvals and budget headaches that all come as part of building something they want to be in for life.
When does the program go to air and how can viewers watch it?
TH: Episodes kick off on Network Ten, Saturday 3pm, July 15. And don’t forget Tenplay! Watch it anytime or share after the show’s gone to air. You can even get a glimpse behind the scenes as we’ve been filming by heading to @AUbyDesign on both Instagram and Facebook.