Every great journey, in my view, ought to have three elements – a motive, a phase of adversity, and a breathtaking moment. The journey of building a home, more specifically of building one’s own home, possesses all three of these traits. At least, that is what I have learnt as a result of watching Grand Designs, a show dedicated to depicting the often-gruelling work behind a self-built project. The show, hosted by Kevin McCloud, has been a favourite of mine for many years, though I am not sure exactly when I became acquainted with it.
Despite this minor memory lapse, I can remember that the show cemented a clear place within my evening routine during the first national lockdown. I distinctly remember planning my activities around the show, always making sure that I had time to watch it. In a time of such difficulty and frustration, Grand Designs allowed my family and I to enjoy ourselves. It allowed us to embark on a nightly journey, albeit through someone else’s activities, which was a lovely experience for us all. Given this profound impact, I thought I would outline exactly what I love about the show, and why I believe the show is one for the ages.
My interest in the show, I believe, developed in line with my interest for architecture. Though the show doesn’t tend to go into the complex calculations behind many architectural features, it gives a good, accessible insight into the technical features of a design. This kind of insight, in my opinion, is more than enough to satisfy the ordinary fan of architecture, because it still allows one to understand the various components behind unique, and sometimes bizarre, bits of design.
This kind of insight is made possible due to the excellence of Kevin McCloud as a presenter, because he uses innovative methods to display how things work. One of my favourite methods involved Kevin using ice lolly sticks to demonstrate the strength of a particular material! As basic as that may sound, the ice lolly sticks were used so elegantly that they formed a perfectly clear representation of the intricate design feature, which even a novice such as myself could comprehend.
On top of this skill, McCloud continually offers clear explanations and astute observations to make the viewer consider all aspects of the design process. I guess you could say that he always keeps you on your feet by making you consider the potential impact that certain design features could have, which is again helpful for those lacking in-depth knowledge of architecture.
Grand Designs also provides viewers with a diverse array of projects, which enables one to appreciate the uniqueness of each project. Despite some of the projects using similar techniques, each design has its own unique purpose or showpiece, for example, so you can always expect to experience something different. Though some might class the similarity of the techniques as a downside, I think it adds something to the viewer experience, because it is nice to understand (over time) why a specific process must take place.
As I’ve alluded to, the wide variety of projects means that, as a viewer, you are always in awe of something different each episode. Whether it be the giant hydraulic window on a renovated Twenties cinema, or the burnt larch cladding on a ‘house in the trees’, there is always something to blow your mind. With that being said, do not expect to be completely in love with the design of every house. Everyone has different tastes – it’s just part of the show!
Above all, Grand Designs makes the viewer feel as though they are part of the project. The viewer has an insight into almost everything – the financial hardship, the familial strain, the ecstasy of progress, and the relief of completion. You feel personally involved with each aspect of the build, and so naturally you share (or at least appreciate) the emotions of the people involved.
For me, Grand Designs is about more than just the build. It is about appreciating the story of the people involved, understanding why they are going through this challenging process, and applauding them when they succeed (even if they go over budget!). As I said at the beginning of this piece, a self-built project is a journey with ups and downs. Grand Designs, in my opinion, does a fantastic job of helping you to understand the intricacies of the journey, whilst simultaneously making you feel part of it all.