Grand Designs: House of the Year is back

Wednesday:Grand Designs: House of the Year 2021; (Channel 4, 9pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 5:00 pm

It’s safe to say that some of the properties featured on Grand Designs are more successful than others.

However, in a recent interview, Kevin McCloud, who has hosted the series since 1999, said that he always find something positive to say about every building featured, no matter what the viewers may think of it – or whether he would want to live in it himself.

For him, the programme is about celebrating the people featured and their achievements, which may be one reason why the show has endured in a world that can be all too cynical. He told The Guardian: “I’m very mindful that we all come to judge very quickly. Social media is fraught with negativity and judgmental attitudes.” (He also revealed that he advises the contributors to stay off social media when their episode airs.)

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Kevin McCloud

However, in Grand Designs: House of the Year 2021, which begins tonight, no one should be scrabbling around to think of something nice to say. As anyone who has watched the series in previous years will know, instead of waiting to see if a couple’s sacrifices, hard work and spiralling budgets were worth it, House of the Year instead presents us with the finished article.

And all the properties featured have already received a major seal of approval – they are on the longlist for the 2021 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) House of the Year award.

In each episode, viewers will get a peek inside a range of properties, before McCloud reveals which one of them the RIBA judges have put through to the seven-strong shortlist. Then, at the end of the series, he’ll announce the winner of the prestigious prize.

The first episode shows just how tough the competition is going to be as McCloud and his co-presenters – architect Damion Burrows and design expert Michelle Ogundehin – visit five surprising houses, and each of them is a showstopper in its own way.

One of the most striking is a futuristic, 1960s sci-fi-inspired water tower in rural Norfolk. According to Riba “the structure is both brave and frugal, a gentle giant.”

There’s also a space-age feel to one of the other properties on the list, a Georgian farmhouse which has gained an angular extension.

The presenters check out a very 21st-addition to a Victorian London street, as well as sleek beach house which has sprung up beside a busy south coast boatyard.

If you really want a mix of period and modern though, there’s a 14th-century fortress in Cumbria, which is hiding a radically contemporary interior. According to Riba: “This is a project which displays considerable inventiveness and sensitivity in meeting the challenges of transforming a remarkable, but decaying, group of historic buildings into a 21st century family home.” Perhaps George Clarke should be taking notes for his Old House, New Home.

But which of the buildings will have impressed the Riba judges enough to make it onto the shortlist?

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