Five Minutes With | Kevin McCloud

The Grand Designs guru discusses the highs and lows of self-building, and the purpose of good architecture…

Interview by: Rosalind Sack

Good architecture is about allowing us to flourish. It’s very simple. I think a building and proper architecture should lift the spirits. It should relax us and look after us. It should protect us from the elements by making us safe and secure, but it should make us feel good.

The single personality trait of self-builders is their resolute iron will. They have this desire to see something through and a readiness to go to the edges of society. You’ve got to put your life on hold, you don’t see your friends for three or four years, you pursue the same single-minded passion and you end up penniless, friendless and with a building that doesn’t love you back. People find it difficult, and yet they rise to it and they change as a result. That’s why we watch Grand Designs, because it’s a transformative process, not just of the building but of people as well, and it’s really powerful.

I tend to be a bit more forthright these days. I used to be a bit worried about offending people with my comments on their houses, but I’ve discovered you can say what you like – people don’t give a toss. Either they don’t care what I think and have no respect for me, or that drive, that sense of self-righteousness I was talking about, that powerful propelling force seems to lift them above any criticism. I suspect it’s the latter!

I say things that some people perceive as cruel, but we usually laugh it all off. Besides, so much of it is a question of taste. I may dislike a bathroom and I may say so, but it’s nothing to do with me, I don’t have to use it. Moreover, taste is a flexible, changeable thing. I’m happy to have a dig for the viewer but, generally speaking, these are buildings that I admire.

We’re very discerning and I think that makes a difference. We are approached with many projects that don’t see the light of day because we don’t film them. We spend a lot of time looking at the drawings and projects before we take them on to figure out whether we think they are exemplary, whether there are ideas we haven’t talked about before. I choose projects that I think we can talk about in a positive way – that’s really important.


The inspiration starts here… with a visit to Grand Designs Live

Grand Designs Live, the UK’s top contemporary home show, returns to ExCeL London from 2-10 May 2015. Presented by Kevin McCloud, and based on the Channel 4 series, the show offers visitors a unique opportunity to see all the latest trends for the home. With areas dedicated to interiors, technology, kitchens, bathrooms, build and gardens, there’s something for every room in your home. And with over 500 exhibitors, you can shop from a great selection of brands with hundreds of items not available on the high street.

Claim your two-for-one tickets now*

We have teamed up with Grand Designs Live to offer you two-for-one tickets to the event. Simply log on to, follow the link to book your tickets and enter the code EXCLUS241 to claim.

*T&Cs Transaction fee of £1.70 applies per order. Tickets must be booked in advance. Offer ends 1 May 2015. Offer valid on standard admission tickets only. Saving based on the door rate.

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