Head In The Clouds

5th May 2016

The annual Grand Designs Live exhibition is here and host Kevin McCloud tells us why we should never stop dreaming big.

Visitors to this year’s Grand Designs Live exhibition at the Excel Centre in London may have been surprised to look across the Thames and see a rather unusual vessel; a houseboat with two bunks, a kitchen, portholes and anchor - fashioned entirely out of cardboard.

“I arrived by boat, which was funky,” says Kevin McCloud, designer, writer and host of Channel 4’s Grand Designs. The boat, made entirely of recycled material was thought up by fellow designers Harry Dwyer and Charlie Waller, and is set to voyage across the English Channel in the New Year, provided it survives its maiden voyage on the Thames…

“It did shed quite a lot of card into the water, and the faster we went the more it shed, but it is still floating and still working,” jokes McCloud.

This idea of the fantastical becoming reality is one that McCloud has built his career on; now in the 16th series of Grand Designs and still going strong, the Somerset-born presenter has changed people’s perceptions of what is possible, a would-be Willy Wonka of the architectural world. Over the last 20 years and 160 episodes, the show has grown to be one of Channel 4’s longest running shows, spawning a number of spin-offs along the way including the live exhibition which takes place in both London and Birmingham. Running until the eighth of May the exhibition hosts over 500 exhibitors and is a goldmine of home improvement inspiration.

“It’s the show that keeps on giving! What keeps it going is that it’s this great little adventure that we can all get involved with – the idea of making a place, making a home. Improving our world,” says McCloud with typical enthusiasm. On the subject of his favourite projects over the years he is equally ardent listing the many wondrous creations he’s witnessed: like the castle in Yorkshire; lots of lovely family homes; and of course, the BAFTA winning film on Patrick Bradley’s shipping container house. After all these years you might think McCloud had seen it all, but not according to him:

“My favourite bit of architecture ever is that exciting idea yet to be built. Every architectural project starts with the idea, the dream; the reason we all, in my world, do what we do is because we’re fascinated by making the world a better place by reinterpreting and altering our environment for the time we are in it.

“Yes, there are fabulous pieces of architecture which are historical, of course. I feel blessed to be human, sometimes, but actually the most exciting thing is the next big idea around the corner.”

Grand Designs Live is at London’s Excel Centre till the 8th of May and the Birmingham NEC 19-23rd of October.