Our editor-at-large is busy filming the forthcoming series of GD and House of the Year – and getting all the Game of Thrones gossip in Belfast.
Summer is entering its full flush and we are madly filming and editing the next series of Grand Designs, due to start in September. We’re also out with camera crews shooting the 20 projects around the country that constitute the RIBA’s House of the Year longlist. It was televised for the first time last year as Grand Designs: House of the Year, and if you watched it you’ll know how steamy and exciting it gets as, over four weeks, we narrow down the competitors to a shortlist and finally an outright winner. The 2015 series attracted as many viewers as Grand Designs (it’s broadcast in the same slot, beginning the week after GD finishes), suggesting to me that you enjoy architectural titillation as much as watching hairy-armed builders glue concrete blocks together with their own lick.
We take the filming process for House of the Year very seriously, as if each project is a final sequence for Grand Designs. There are multiple high-definition cameras, Go-Pros, jibs, cranes, sliders and octocopters. We pull focus and judiciously choose the moment to tease you with a short-depth-of-field come-on. This year, we want the editing to be even more languorous. Our job, therefore, is to film the titillations and then package them to stimulate the intellect to complete satisfaction. As architecture’s handmaiden and experienced telly fluff, I’m perfectly happy to provide this service.
The rise of Northern Irish architecture
In 2015 there was a rash of great Northern Irish domestic architecture. The province clocked up four longlisted entries on House of the Year, including Patrick Bradley’s shipping container home – a project that also appeared in the 2015 BAFTA-winning Grand Designs series. By my calculation, given that its population is 1.8 million, Northern Ireland is punching 14 times above its weight in terms of good buildings – a great success to celebrate and a mark of how buoyant, enterprising and revived its culture is. Clients are even beginning to spurn the traditional concrete bungalow in favour of good twenty-first-century architecture. But alas! There isn’t a single Northern Irish project on the 2016 House of the Year longlist. That’s the lumpy nature of progress in construction for you. As I write, I’m travelling to Belfast to film a young architect building a rural home/shed/barn for his family. It’ll be a fine thing. I may have to revise my calculations, but I bet Northern Ireland will be back in 2017 with more exemplary buildings.
And there is a bonus to filming in Northern Ireland these days: the Game of Thrones aura that has enveloped the place. Game of Thrones is filmed on location all over the province and especially in the Paint Hall, the giant hangar in Belfast’s docks built to paint the ships of Harland and Wolff. GoT fairy dust is sprinkled over every conversation and public meeting here. You can bump into cast members in Waitrose; I walked into Belfast’s Spaniard pub last week and half the conversations were about who had been seen where and in which beard. You can even go on GoT bus tours around country locations. My lift today, Gerry, turns out to have been the regular driver for Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington and Sean Bean. I’m sitting in the front of the car with him, but feel I should be in the back, on the same seat as those mythical bottoms.
Image: James Morris; Aidan Monaghan; Julian Winslow