Kevin McCloud, the opinionated presenter of long running show Grand Designs, has a passion for building that extends beyond brick and mortar.
The design guru has long been interested in renovated buildings, with sustainably at the forefront of his mind. A man with countless favourite buildings, “some that don’t even exist anymore for whatever reason,” McCloud cites some London landmarks at the top of the list.
“I recently visited King’s Cross station - not the kind of thing you wanted to do ten years ago – but now that they’ve taken down the front canopies from the 70s and built a new extension to the site, it’s a fabulous building.”
“I used to live in Bedfordshire and would commute though St. Pancreas station. It was black and hideous and everyone wanted to demolish the station but John Betjeman campaigned to save it. We thought John was mad at first, but now you look at it and think ‘how could they ever have wanted to tear this down?’”
For McCloud, our affinity with buildings, “is all to do with changing tastes.” Then, of course, there’s the question of upkeep; “of whether we decide to look after our buildings. A building that has been polished up beautifully can be an inspiration.”
McCloud has been in the presence of many a worn, majestic building, but his Grand Designs days have seen him witness some impressive new builds too.
“I’m very fond of the little house designed on the Isle of Skye. We filmed in the summer of 2012 when it was raining just everywhere across the UK, except, for some reason, the Isle of Skye. I fell in love with the rural Isle and it’s impossible to separate the direction of the film from the experience of making it and the people. It all rolls into one and it was a lovely, happy experience.”
McCloud’s latest project is Grand Designs Live, the four day event where “we’ve got rather amazing buildings, lots of building techniques to have a go at, and amazing food being created in front of an audience.” The event also features “a look at the technologies which are driving the future,” and McCloud has instrumented an urban allotment. “We’ve got bee keepers and architects together in the same room!”
The Birmingham based show still excites McCloud. “Birmingham was the cradle of the industrial revolution, and it’s rather cool to think that right now, in Britain, we still have the innovation and design techniques. We’ve got those great resources and people are beginning to turn them into a new kind of manufacturing and a new kind of making.”
With Britain’s biggest growth in the past few in manufacturing, McCloud points out that all of the Formula 1 manufacturing capabilities are in England.
A man invested in sustainability, Kevin Cloud has grown used to presenting both ends of the spectrum on Grand Designs. But he’s confident that thatched roofs and solar panels can still exist side by side.
“Right now there’s a whole band of architects who are really trying to evolve a style of architecture which incorporates natural materials with the contemporary.”
McCloud has a vested interest in low impact building, and while he understands that “We all like bling and the government are going to carry on commissioning those big glass towers”, he sees exciting developments in the future of architecture.
“Particularly with architects designing buildings for developing countries, where we are seeing such population growth, It’s important that we develop technologies for building that allow communities to empower themselves and to use available materials, rather than import concrete and glass.”
A man who “would like to think there can be greater cross overs between disciplines,” we suspect that under McCloud’s keen eye, a greener breed of bling is more than possible.