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Grand Designs Kevin McCloud: 'We're trying to do something that is both magical and breathtaking

By Sarah Morgan

TV presenter Kevin McCloud is back with a new series of Grand Designs on Channel 4. Here, he talks about some of the amazing home renovation schemes viewers will be able to watch take shape.

When you began back in 1999, you can't have imagined it would go on for as long as this?

We actually started filming in 1997, so I can see the third decade of my involvement in this looming on the horizon. But no, of course I couldn't imagine still doing it – I couldn't imagine being 55 back then, when I was 39 or 37 or whatever I was when we started. It's been amazing.

Of you could come up with a best of Grand Designs, what would it include?

In one project? It would be just down the road, so I didn't have to spend four hours getting there, a really, really good pub for lunch, and it would push at the boundaries. It would do something stonking that nobody has ever seen before. And that's all any designer or architect can do – we're trying to do something new and fresh that nobody has ever seen before, and is an experience that is magical and breathtaking.

Do many people on the show achieve that?

The interesting thing about the design process is trying to change the world. We watch it because we all want to go on this journey, and occasionally we are wowed and astonished and our souls are lit up because we see something that is extraordinary. People don't watch Grand Designs because they hope the windows are going to be delivered a month late, they're watching hoping that they're going to see that moment, that point of inspiration where their own souls are touched, I think.

Are you always surprised by the ideas people come up with?

Yes, I am. The one great thing that I hadn't anticipated when we started is that there would be such an enormous wealth of different projects. Of course, tastes change and time passes, but the wealth of variety constantly amazes me, and it's a source of great inspiration and it keeps me going.

What should we look out for on the new series?

They're all pretty stand-out. There's a wonderful, small courthouse in south London that is beautifully proportioned, like a Roman villa, it's just wonderful. Then we have a circular building built by a doctor, which looks like a giant wooden flying saucer has landed on Stonehenge. Then we have a floating house, which is an amazing feat of engineering. It rises up and down in its own dry dock whenever the Thames floods, so it's kind of an answer to how we deal with water and flood plains.

What's the best thing about being involved in Grand Designs?

Over the years, we have filmed game-changing moments in the conservation movement, or in design, and there are four or five major buildings that have gone on to influence architecture, design, conservation, whatever it is, and it's always a privilege to be there for one of those.

Have you ever turned up somewhere and thought, this is not for me?

All the time. Most of the houses are not for me, but I don't want them to be. I'm very keen to make the distinction between my taste and my admiration for somebody else's work. I can admire the quality of the design or the quality of the execution, my taste doesn't enter into it. Of course, we all sit there and point while we're watching and say, 'That is rubbish, I wouldn't live there, I wouldn't have that'. But you'll probably find that in 10 years you would. We just change, our tastes change.

How do you view the housing market at the moment?

It's really volatile. It's difficult for people to get mortgages again, and the heat's been taken out of the market, which is what the Bank of England wanted to see. It seems mad that we as homeowners, or potential homeowners, should be paying the price for something caused by bankers, and we should continue to pay that price and be penalised. It's very unfortunate.

What other projects are you working on right now?

I've got Grand Designs live at the NEC in Birmingham in October. A big feature we have this year – which I'm really excited about and, because it was my idea, I'm keen to show off about it – is a village fete. I'm also working on a series that goes out next spring about people who live in really, really extreme environments with their families. What happens if you move to Iceland to start a new life? Or the middle of the Australian desert, or Alaska? So it's an extension, I suppose, to many of the things we've touched on in Grand Designs.

The plug

Property show Grand Designs made its TV debut 15 years ago and has grown in stature ever since. Watch it on Wednesday nights, Channel 4, 9pm

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