The Best of Grand Designs
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A complete celebration of Britain's favourite architectural show. Grand Designs is broadcast in over 130 countries and regularly gleans 5 million viewers in the UK. Its success, says Kevin, is due to 'good old-fashioned story telling; of joy and sorrow, torment and triumph, expressed tangibly in the making of a building'. To celebrate fourteen glorious years of film-making, 100 editions of Grand Designs Magazine, 100 separate programmes and ten years of hosting the Stirling Prize, Kevin now delves into the archives to highlight his favourite projects. The Best of Grand Designs charts where domestic architecture has come from, and is moving to, in the first decade or so of a new millennium. And it places people at the centre of the stories of these buildings. Each project is supported by beautiful photography, building plans and Kevin's own personal analysis, together with commentary from his long-time collaborator, Isabel Allen. From the off-grid ecological approach of woodsman Ben Law in Sussex to the quirky experimentalism of Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till's straw bale house in London, Kevin demonstrates how Grand Designs continues to contribute to television history and why it provides an important legacy for good house design.
So much urban architecture is about fitting in to what already exists and for those steeped in the spirit of urban life this exigency, the need to be flexible and responsive, can draw its energy from the very constraints that limit a project. I filmed Monty Ravenscroft and his partner Claire Loewe constructing an extraordinary, experimental house on an unpromising site in south London in 2004. Designed by the late, great architect Richard Paxton, but engineered by the polymath Monty, the house effectively had to be hidden from the street and not impede light from reaching the adjoining houses.
In every way, John Leland would certainly have approved. The layout is a model of how to plan a compact, but architecturally exuberant, family house. From the entrance hall the eye is drawn to a generous living space. As with the house by Chris Platt on the preceding pages, the house is both semi-open section and semi-open plan. British suburban domesticity meets Scandinavian pointy aspiration: a cheeky reinterpretation of the surrounding chalet bungalows. (© Jake Curtis/Media 10 Images) Sliding doors connect the living room with the garden.
Sean Myers/Media 10 Images) Floors get progressively smaller, creating an elegant stacked cascade. (© Sean Myers/Media 10 Images) A twisting staircase brings daylight deep into the centre of the plan. (© Sean Myers/Media 10 Images) BUSHFIRE HOUSE Building your own house is always an intensely optimistic act. Bushfire House, at Callignee in Gippsland, Australia, is perhaps the ultimate example of hope over adversity. This is the second house built by Chris Clarke on this particular site.
This is a couple that doesn’t do things by halves, and there is a certain irony in the fact that their quest for authenticity and utility resulted in what has got to be one of the most extravagant – and most controversial – projects in the history of Grand Designs. The ultimate bells and whistles home, it boasts a glass-roofed winter garden, gym, home cinema, heated dumb-waiter and a panelled study complete with a secret exit concealed behind a bookshelf. And the overall finish and feel of a particularly metropolitan boutique five-star hotel.
But, as in all the best relationships, it works precisely because neither one is allowed to completely overshadow the other. It’s the best example of a church conversion I’ve seen. The chapel is surrounded by wild countryside. (© Mark Luscombe-Whyte/Media 10 Images) The renovation is an extraordinary marriage of two very different architectural languages and scales. (© Mark Luscombe-Whyte/Media 10 Images) The altar windows preside over the kitchen and dining hall. (© Mark Luscombe-Whyte/Media 10 Images) 09 DISAPPEARING ACTS There are some for whom building a modest house is not enough.