Man with a plan

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - NATHAN DAVIES Grand De­signs, ABC, Sun­day, 7.30pm

HE’S the Bear Grylls of ar­chi­tec­ture, the man who made build­ing ap­provals sexy, the tall, dash­ing pre­sen­ter the Bri­tish press loves to de­scribe as ‘‘ the think­ing wo­man’s crum­pet’’.

His pro­gram, Grand De­signs, has in­spired every­thing from un­der­ground eco-man­sions to rowdy drink­ing games.

But speak­ing to Kevin Mc­Cloud ( pic­tured) on the tele­phone from his 500-year-old farm­house in Eng­land’s West Coun­try, you get the im­pres­sion he’s more be­mused than im­pressed by his phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess.

‘‘ I pre­fer the think­ing wo­man’s scone to crum­pet,’’ he says with a laugh. ‘‘ Or jam roll.

‘‘ I do get a lot of fan mail, but it’s from 16-year-old boys who want to be ar­chi­tects. And that’s nice.

‘‘ I think it’s all a fic­tion. It’s done to wind me up.’’

Of course, Mc­Cloud’s be­ing modest. If noth­ing else, he’s taken high-con­cept hous­ing de­sign out of the pay-TV niche mar­ket and into prime time.

It’s an achieve­ment that makes the softly-spo­ken 53-year-old very happy.

‘‘ My mis­sion, if I have one with Grand De­signs, is to get peo­ple to spell ar­chi­tec­ture with­out a cap­i­tal A,’’ he says.

‘‘ And to be able to use that ’ A word’ on tele­vi­sion, which I’m now able to do.’’

Mc­Cloud grew up in a ‘‘ typ­i­cal badly de­signed, badly in­su­lated’’ 1960s house his par­ents bought off the plan.

‘‘ My ear­li­est mem­ory is stand­ing in the up­stairs toi­let and look­ing through the gaps in the floor­boards to the kitchen be­low,’’ he re­calls. But it was a house that gave him his first ex­pe­ri­ence of ren­o­va­tion. ‘‘ It was a tiny house, and I had the tini­est room in the build­ing,’’ Mc­Cloud says.

‘‘ When I got to six foot tall – when I was about 14 – my dad had to ex­tend the room into the stair­well so that I could sleep in it.’’

Af­ter univer­sity, Mc­Cloud grav­i­tated to­wards set de­sign and the­atre light­ing. He set up his own suc­cess­ful light­ing busi­ness, com­ing to tele­vi­sion rather late in life.

‘‘ The process of mak­ing tele­vi­sion is ac­tu­ally quite hu­mil­i­at­ing,’’ he says.

‘‘ There are a lot of peo­ple in their 20s telling you what to do: ‘ Oh, could you move your shoul­der this way a bit?’ But I’m blessed be­cause I’m not a generic TV pro­ducer and I don’t have to do game shows.’’

What he does in­stead is cre­ate hour-long real-life dra­mas about that most stress­ful of hu­man en­deav­ours – build­ing a house.

Mc­Cloud vis­its each build about seven times, with the pro­duc­tion crew mak­ing as many as 20 vis­its. Along the way they cap­ture the melo­drama and in­evitable pit­falls, from the ob­jec­tions of ‘‘ Nimby’’ neigh­bours to cash flow prob­lems and bol­shie builders.

Mc­Cloud in­sists no part of Grand De­signs is scripted.

‘‘ It’s never hard to find the drama. You don’t need to fab­ri­cate it,’’ he says.

‘‘ Hav­ing said that, we won’t take on a project un­less there’s an el­e­ment of risk.

‘‘ If there’s a fi­nan­cial risk then there’s usu­ally some kind of de­sign risk – they’re try­ing things that have never been tried be­fore, or us­ing un­proven tech­nol­ogy. Or do­ing some­thing highly per­sonal that’s a lit­tle bit wacky.

‘‘ Of course we get peo­ple writ­ing in and say­ing, ‘ I make a lot of money and I’m go­ing to build my­self a mas­sive house’. Well thank you, that’s very in­ter­est­ing. But I don’t think our view­ers would be in­ter­ested in it.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.