InterVIEW: Peter Serpell

Peter began his career in farming after completing a Diploma of Farm Management and Marcus Oldham College in Geelong. For over 30 years he and his family grew Raspberries (100 tonne/year!). With global warming having major impacts on the farming industry, he ceased raspberry farming in 2007 and retrained to be building designer from 2008 to 2010. Located just out of Myrtleford in northern Victoria, Peter also runs a cattle farm with his wife of 35 years. So he works from his farm office!

What is/are your favourite project/s that you have worked on, and why?

Homes where I can encourage clients into passive solar design. I had a home that was being built on a farm, and even before it was finished, the builder commented how nice it was working in there in the middle of winter, with just the effects of the sun coming into the building.

To date, my biggest business/design challenge has been?

My biggest design challenge is a project I am currently working on for a client on Norfolk Island. My client who currently lives locally had a dream to move to Norfolk Island, and mid-year 2019 purchased 5 hectares in the middle of Norfolk Island.

I had recently worked with this lady to solve problems in her current home caused by bad design and poor building practices.

Among the many challenges encountered on this current project are no one does soils tests, little access to engineering on the island, only the local Norfolk pine available on the island, with structural certification and the logistics of shipping materials to the island via Auckland.

My favourite finish is?

Currently I have friends that have built a straw bale/mudbrick home, and they are currently rendering the outside with a mix of local clay, mixed with lime and sand. The colour, a soft apricot, along with the imperfections give this a unique character.

The architectural style of the home I grew up in?

The house I grew up in was post war brick veneer. It was well designed. All of the living areas had winter sun flooding into them, with a decent eave to protect us from the summer sun, and was well insulated.

I joined Design Matters because?

I joined Design Matters as a means of keeping up to date with regulation, new ideas on design and materials. It is good to exchange current projects that other members are involved in through our local regional meetings.

My favourite Australian building is?

A collective of high country cattleman’s huts, they were built fit for purpose, to keep the weather out, and the people warm and dry using as much local materials as possible.

My favourite international building is?

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, in the Basque Country in Spain.

Its free form digitised design by Frank Gehry captures your imagination by avoiding any straight lines. It is a place that I one day plan to visit.

My words of wisdom for a student building designer are?

Be open to the wonderful array of building forms, and how they can work in the landscape.

When I was a child I wanted to be?

Like many young boys I wanted to be a fireman. Growing up on a farm I had the opportunity of joining the local volunteer fire brigade and after more than 45 years I am still an active member.


Outside of work, I am passionate about?

The environment. Still running a farm today, my wife and I have planted extensive areas of native vegetation, to encourage the local birds, insects and mammals. We share this passion with the guests we have staying with us in our B&B.

At the moment I am reading?

Magazines and articles relating to good design.

My life in 4 words?

Family, Community, Environment, Agriculture.

Cattleman's Hut
Cattleman's Hut