All your favourite soaps gossip plus full 7-day listings
GEORGE CLARKE MAY BE A RECOGNISABLE FACE THANKS TO A NUMBER OF HIT TV SHOWS. BUT THE TRAINED ARCHITECT TELLS GEMMA DUNN HE HAS LITTLE INTEREST IN THE FAME GAME
Channel 4, Thursday, 8pm
GEORGE Clarke is in his element. The architect-turned-TV-presenter is standing atop a snowcapped mountain in the Alpine village of Verbier – and by his own account, he’s feeling “Christmassy”.
But the Restoration Man star isn’t simply getting his festive fix: he’s in the Swiss resort to film a very special edition of his hit Channel 4 show, Amazing Spaces.
Aptly titled Winter Wonderland, the standalone episode will see Clarke and master-craftsman Will Hardie explore the ingenious small space wonders hidden away among the snowy peaks of the Swiss and Italian Alps.
Starting their epic road trip from an observation point 4,000m above sea level, the duo will set out on an adventure which takes in a secret ski lodge disguised as a boulder, a tree house resembling a giant acorn, a traditional cabin made almost entirely from concrete, a breathtaking mountaintop hotel which glows in the dark and a star-gazing hideaway which rotates with the night sky.
“Even just being here, filming, really does get you in that festive mood,” quips George, 44.
“We’ve done Norway, we’ve done Canada, we’ve done some far-flung places [before], and you forget what’s right on our doorstep,” he suggests.
“I have to say the views here have just been absolutely breathtaking. You can imagine some of the drone shots we’ve got; it looks filmic, it looks epic, it looks snowy, it looks alpine...”
How has he enjoyed switching up the climate?
“I love it!” responds the Sunderland native. “I’m from the North East anyway, so it’s always freezing up there! And genuinely I am a mountain person.
“I go up to the Lake District all the time, the Western Isles of Scotland, the Highlands...” he lists. “It makes you feel fresh, the air’s cleaner, and I love walking and I love climbing.
“So to be able to see Amazing Spaces’ projects when there’s a lovely dialogue between great design and beautiful landscapes, it’s a fantastic combination.”
And from the UK to Europe, there’s certainly been no shortage of inspiring builds to span seven seasons of the show – plus seasonal specials.
“Every year that I think we’ve virtually done everything, a whole other batch of projects come up again!” declares George.
“People are building all the time anyway, so every year there are new projects being created, and I’m genuinely blown away by people’s inventiveness and creativity.
“I think that’s what’s unique about small spaces,” he offers. “If it’s small and it’s something that’s just fun, it’s easier to do. And it doesn’t necessarily cost the earth either.”
It’s about “making architecture and design, particularly home design, as accessible to as many people as possible”, he maintains.
“Architecture and design can be quite a serious subject and I even think that the architectural profession takes itself a bit too seriously sometimes,” confesses George, who is the creative director of Londonbased design and build company, George Clarke + Partners.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still teach architecture and when you’re teaching things like the history and theory of architecture, they can be quite deep subjects,” he shares.
“But one of the things I am most proud about with Amazing Spaces is I get a huge amount of school teachers, saying, ‘Do you mind if we run an Amazing Spaces school project?’ And I’m like, ‘Go for it!’
“If I can inspire young kids to design a little house at the bottom of their garden or redesign their bedroom or design their dream home, that’s all fantastic stuff,” concludes George, who also hosts the brilliant Old House, New Home. “To me, the two most important things in my industry – I’m not just talking about television, I’m talking about being an architect and a designer – are innovation and education.
“They allow young people to be educated in some really exciting things,” he states. “I fell in love with [design] when I was a kid.”
He recalls the first series of Amazing Spaces, in which he converted an old static caravan into a special place for him and his three children – two sons and one daughter – to enjoy. That was 2012 and we’ve still got that today!” he says with joy.
“My kids love staying in my caravan more than they love staying in a posh hotel, because it’s more fun. And I want design to be fun and exciting and innovative and push the boundaries of creative thinking,” he reasons.
“Think: How can we do something differently?”
As for the fame that comes with being on screen, George has mixed feelings.
“I’m in a very privileged position, and I feel thankful every day with the career that I’ve got,” he answers.
He follows: “Yes it’s television, but all I wanted to be was an architect. And when I became an architect that was a dream come true. When I started my own architectural practice, my own company and my own design agency, that was another dream come true.
“I never thought that would happen,” he confides, admitting the hardest part of his job is being away from his children when filming.
“If I’m honest, anything beyond that is a bonus – and I’ve got enough mates up in the North East to make sure I keep my feet firmly on the ground!”
And the “celebrity” tag?
“I never use the ‘C’ word!” he retorts, with a laugh.
“I don’t want to be a celebrity. I want to be a good architect. I want to make and craft really beautiful programmes that people love watching,” he explains.
“For me it’s work still,” he persists. “It’s my job; I get up every morning, I go to work, I do pieces to camera, meet people, sketch and design.
“It’s the process of making: I make buildings, I make television. It’s that kind of designer-maker thing that’s consistent with me,” reasons George, whose next TV venture, George Clarke’s 100 Years of British Homes, will mark the centenary of the nation’s council house movement.
“So the thought of being a celebrity just makes me feel a bit ill.”
George Clarke takes stock of the amazing view from the Alps
George in the concrete cabin