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Kevin McCloud’s pieces-to-camera are the stuff of Grand Designs legend. We’ve picked out a few words of wisdom for your delectation

kevin mccloud talking at grand designs live

Image: Aaron Scott Richards

From architects and layouts to clarity and beauty, here are a few snippets from the McCloud TV masterclasses for anyone who loves good design

On architects

‘Imagine you’re building a house and you take your dream to an architect. It is his or her job to take that loose bag of ingredients, that half-written recipe, whip light and air into it, spoon it into different, enticing shapes and then gently bake it into an exquisite syllabub.' 

'An architect will deliver so much more value for money in your design (storage, clever circulation, beauty, imagination) it’s as though their services come entirely for free. What’s it to be then? In my left hand, a lemon and a box of eggs. In my right, a delicious concoction of sweetness to transport the soul. I know which I’d choose.’

On writing for the camera

‘If you reduce the contents down too much they become thick, opaque and indigestible. Better to trip lightly across the conversational clouds of simile and metaphor, throwing in the odd food analogy. Like syllabub and consommé.’

On great building

The Vitruvian principles, espoused by Palladio and every architect since, are those of firmness, commodity and delight. John Ruskin added that architecture should also speak of its time and of its place… A house built now should speak of the people that use it and commissioned it.'

'[This] doesn’t necessarily contradict Frank Gehry’s view that building should yearn for timelessness.’

On layout and clarity

‘The logic of the layout, the clarity of how you and I can get round a building and use it well and ergonomically, matters.’

‘Clarity matters because our lives are relatively chaotic and one thing architecture does well is create order form chaos.

'Clarity and order give human beings a good deal of pleasure.’

On energy

‘A building… ought to hum with the positive energy and commitment it took to build it and even – as the architect Charles Moore once said – repay that energy over time with interest.’

On designing today

‘A great building ought … to use the resources needed to make it and run it frugally, so that future generations will enjoy the same opportunities to build.

'Architecture should be sustainable and responsible.’

On beauty

‘In case you thought buildings should be all mealy-mouthed, logical and responsible, we should not forget beauty, wit and the imagination.’


Find lots self-build design inspiration at Grand Designs Live where Kevin will share more of his words of wisdom at London Excel from 5th - 13th May.


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