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Kevin McCloud tells us what makes Grand Designs so successful

·3-min read
Photo credit: Channel 4
Photo credit: Channel 4

The most recent series of Grand Designs, which aired in January 2021 with 3.4 million viewers, was the highest rated series in 12 years.

Channel 4's much-loved property and homebuilding programme has been on air for more than 20 years, with the first series airing in April 1999 – and it's still going strong.

With series 22 making an imminent return to our TV screens, and with two new series of Grand Designs: The Street recently confirmed, we asked presenter Kevin McCloud exactly what he thinks makes Grand Designs so successful and loved by many.

'I've been asking myself that question for 23 years! We started out in 1997/98 and I thought it would be watched by one surveyor and his dog, and amazingly it still goes on and I think it’s because the stories are as varied and as interesting as human beings are varied and interesting,' Kevin tells House Beautiful UK.

Photo credit: Theo Cohen
Photo credit: Theo Cohen

'We do spend a lot of time weeding through the stories. We want great architecture that people haven't seen before, we want new ideas and new agendas but we also want interesting people, people that on camera are going to bring a story which you haven’t heard before, so I'm always very much aware that architecture is about people and place.'

Every Grand Designs fan has a memorable episode or two, and for us – and Kevin – one such episode is Edward Short's lighthouse build (Chesil Cliff House) in Croyde, North Devon. It's been called the saddest ever episode of Grand Designs and Kevin has revealed that they are making plans to film a follow-up episode with Edward, as the build – which has taken almost 10 years – is now nearly complete.

'If you find a great place and you have the people, then what you get usually is a story which is ready to manifest in the building itself,' Kevin continues. 'The architecture will always in the end reflect the individual. It will be a manifestation, so there's a way in which the stories themselves grow. The building becomes a personality and a character, it makes you an individual in the story and it comes to reflect who they are.'

Series 22 of Grand Designs returns with the first episode following Joe and Claire, who are building a home to look like a work of art, on a hill overlooking a beautiful valley in South Devon.

Their new house will be a giant sculpture – 70 metres long and featuring 34 enormous angled zinc shards – inspired by the local landscape.

It will, of course, be a complicated and expensive build. But wealthy, ambitious and fearless Joe intends to invest a large part of his self-made fortune into making the impossible possible, and build 'one of the greatest homes on the planet'.

It's not a smooth process as major structural engineering changes are needed to contend with high winds hitting the shards, the prefabricated timbers don't fit together to build an intricate wooden frame, and the £835,000 budget virtually doubles before the first walls go up. As delays mount, making Joe's dream a reality seems further away than ever.

Kevin McCloud will appear at Grand Designs Live from 6 – 10 October 2021 at the NEC, for tickets and more information visit www.granddesignslive.com.

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