Kevin McCloud of BBC’s Grand Designs at Sydney Opera House

Kevin McCloud of BBC’s Grand Designs at Sydney Opera House

[ Audience Applause ]>>What do you think of our house? It’s pretty good isn’t it?>>Fabulous building, fabulous building. We could spend, we could spend all
evening talking about this one building; it’s story, the place, the
power that it’s had, in fact, we’re going to spend a little
bit of time talking about that.>>[inaudible]>>It is, it’s a huge privilege to
be in it and to be able to also, to explore it you know,
in it’s bowels, underneath and through the dressing
rooms, and to see how it works. Because all buildings need to first of
all, function well, and this one is, I think it’s loved isn’t it? By artists.>>Yes. Have you had any injuries
when you’ve, during the show?>>I once fell down a manhole. It was so dark I didn’t see it. And that was, that was
quite serious, but no, I’ve mercifully haven’t
fallen off scaffolding. I mean we have had, on the team, we’ve
had the occasional injury but you know, health and safety at
all times and you know, the golden rule is don’t walk
backwards while on the scaffolding.>>When things are going
terrifically on time–>>Fantastic.>>Yeah, does it okay
or do you sort of– ->>Fantastic. Because the one thing that matters, is getting a great building
at the end of it. One of the projects we filmed
years, and years, and years ago, was Ben Law in the woods
building this sort of totally stable house from the woods. From the stuff that he
cut down with his friends. It cost him 26,000 pounds,
about $50,000 to do it. It was, if there was no jeopardy, to
use that word, not very much suspense, no risk to the money overrunning
you know, and there’s nothing, and I remember having to do a piece
to camera at one point about you know, to bring people back after
the commercial break, where you say something
like, it’s all going okay but actually, winter is coming. And it was September, you know. So it was, yeah, early autumn. And no, it was nonsense and you can’t
weave that in, and you don’t want to. And people loved that
show, they loved that film. I love that film, precisely
because nothing went wrong, and because what we ended up with
of course, was a great building and compromise is the great
enemy of quality you know. We, everybody aims for perfection and what we get is something
kind of okay if we’re lucky. In architecture and building,
most people just aim for okay–>>Yeah.>>– so they get absolute crap. And so when you find people
really aiming for stuff, you pray that it’s going to
go well and yeah, of course, you know of course viewers love to
think that you know, I’m Cassandra voice of doom and that you know,
we all want it to fail but the absolute opposite is true. Because you want to see
great stuff don’t you?>>I mean is that, is that
the heart of it really for you and that’s why it’s resonated
with people? Because there is that drama there. That you’re not willing them to fail.>>No, I love the end.>>Yeah.>>I love not having to wear
a hardhat and not having to stride around in mud is great. And the point being is
that, is that, you know, quality is such a rare
thing in this world. And in television, championing
stuff is such a rare thing. I mean when we started twenty years
ago, we started [inaudible] in 1997. We, at that time, television was very
cynical and it had a real culture of trying to exploit our
contributors, you know, the people who are the
victims if you like, of it. And when we started, we started in a
quite a celebratory way and colleagues in television didn’t like it.>>Oh.>>They thought is was somehow we
were conniving with the real world. This is the arrogance of
television [inaudible] of course.>>Yeah.>>And, that really we should be taking
a far more cynical approach, and my view and yours I know is too, that
if there is great quality in the world, it is rare–>>Yeah.>>– and so when you find good things
and good people, and there is goodness in everyone and everyone is interesting,
that needs to be celebrated, that needs to be something that we
all, you know, should shout about.>>When did you know that it was, that
it kicked in that it was you know, it was working and it
was resonating with– ?>>When we got the repeat
commissions of course. For serious too but I just thought until
that point you know, three surveyors and a dog were going to watch it,
and it turns out three surveyors and a dog did watch it
but so did everyone else.>>I mean the wonderful thing about
architecture is that it has it’s time and then moves on and adapts and
then you sort of, we were talking about it earlier today about architecture being the
longest game and then you know –>>Yeah.>>It takes a while.>>Yeah.>>Those buildings that you know of
the twenty years, have ones that you, have your feelings changed about them?>>I think I was I used to be certainly
far more nervous and I think we all are about nervous about passing judgement . And it is only with time that you begin
to look back and see, actually you know, that was really quite good. That was quite exceptional. I remember in the first, very
first series we did a programme about self-built group of people
from the social housing list. And they were learning skills,
[inaudible] houses with them, there were ten households
on the site in Brighton. And they were all from the, they all
came from difficult circumstances. I met one mum who, with her
children, was living in a flat where every time they stepped out
onto the hall, the common parts of the building, they would just
tread through needles, you know? And she was really struggling, and
she was learning to be a carpenter. And she built this house
first, and she’s still there. So I went back after 14
years I think it was. And we filmed them. And it was remarkable and it was sort
of for me, the complete vindication of the belief architecture can make you,
can change you, can make you a happier, better person, can alter
your lives, can lift you. And I met her and she’d gone
off and she’s done her degree and other people had sort of
found time to work as volunteers, because they’d all earned sweat equity, which meant their rents
were lower where they lived. With the result that they
had the chance to give back to offer some social capital to
volunteer, to not be mortgage slaves, to actually find time
to dedicate themselves to something for the common good.>>Were there people over the years
that sort of felt that they were closer to you than you know, you
felt comfortable with? And you know and they sort of said, [inaudible] when are
you coming around again? And you go well, we’re finished filming.>>Yeah. That is such
a difficult question. Do you know truth to tell, I’ve yet to
be invited to a single housewarming.>>Really? What do you think this
building says about us?>>Oh man, well this
is iconic, this place. But I think the Opera House first of
all is an icon, it’s an icon for Sydney, it’s an icon for Australia,
it’s an icon internationally, and it fits into a family of buildings
that are very, very rare indeed. That have transformed a
global perception of a place that actually have a transformative
effect on a culture even.>>Yeah.>>And I was talking earlier
on to the director here. And she was saying just
how this has sort of become a sort of cultural,
what is it? A kind of almost like a [inaudible]
kind of, part of a conversation. It’s become an emblem of a
relationship between people and place. Part of the language of Australia. And I grew up in England with an uncle,
who in the early 1960’s moved here. My brother, who’s in the audience
somewhere, that’s very typical of him. [ Laughter ] Graham [assumed spelling],
I’ll embarrass him further, is here with Sarah [assumed
spelling], and Graham and Terrence [assumed spelling], grew
up with an uncle who’d moved here and so we were kind of
agog with the idea. There was this other world that we could
enter into, partly through television, partly through a dialogue with
through you know, airmail. And partly through images and magazine
articles about the Opera House, which was being built in the
’60s and was opened in the ’70s. The Sydney Opera House was and is this
kind of culture changing object and I, Frank Gehry who did the
Bilbao Guggenheim, said that without this building, the Guggenheim would have
had no effect in Bilbao.>>Yeah.>>That this building changed
everything really, that it brought, it brought a new language and it just
sort of defined a language for a place. And when you think about
the language of what it is, the shapes, the architecture, its–>>Oh I think it shows the
world that we’re a progressive and forward thinking place. That should, it’s our
symbol of modernity.>>Yeah. But–>>Have we forgotten that though?>>Don’t you also think it
told Australia that as well?>>Oh, absolutely!>>So I believe that we as a
species, we’re on these, we’ve lived, we’ve survived on these great
big skills of chaos and order. So we take stuff out of the ground
and we build these glorious edifices, and then they sort of crumble away and
we got to repair them or they fall over and we buy these shiny cars and then
we throw them away when they get rusty, and they go to big knacker’s yards, and
aircraft go to enormous knacker’s yards in the middle of the Arizona desert,
where we like to forget about stuff. We buy plastic bottles of water,
we drink the water, it’s shiny and beautiful in its
beautiful plastic bottle. We then throw the bottle away and we
dispose a garbage truck full of plastic into the seas every minute. With the result there are 3
trillion tonnes of it in the Pacific. So the issue is how we manage to use the
resources that we’ve got available to us for our benefit and for the
benefit of future generations. Yes we’re killing off pretty well
most of the species on the plant, but the one that’s going to
suffer most in the end is us. We’re going to, we will vanish as a
civilisation if we’re not careful. I think my tastes get, and I
think all of our tastes get, a little bit more tolerant and
eccentric sometimes as we get older, that’s fair to say, but I
think that’s a good thing. Do you agree?>>Ah, I mean, yeah I think you–>>And how are you on
Edwardian Twiddles?>>Ah, well, I mean I think, I think–>>Come on.>>It makes, it, it might, my taste
changes obviously, everyone’s does. And some, I think having
children changed how I feel about my house becomes, I’m so
much more sentimental about things. And I’m more interested in my house
being a functional warm place, a place that is a great place
for our children to [inaudible] and their friends to come
round and people feel like it’s a homely place rather than
making some sort of modernist shrine.>>Yeah, I think that’s a really
interesting point, because you know, I think what was sort of, it’s
a very interesting question because what it sort of implies is
that there are layers of different ways of engaging with the made world. And you can either be a maker you know, in which case you’re busy working
your workshop, doing your thing, and that’s what you surround
yourself with. Or you can be a non-maker and you can
commission something, we could all of us if we try really hard, and I’m very
mindful of this you know, you can go out and buy, you can go and buy a
dinner service or some cutlery or you can buy the designer
cutlery, yeah with the name on it. Or you can go out and find a
cutler who’ll make you some stuff or make you some dinner plates. And sometimes it doesn’t cost
that much more to do that.>>Yeah.>>And you go on a journey as a patron
of craftsmanship, which engages you, not as a maker, but it lifts,
it takes you into that world. And the one thing I can promise
you is that if you go that way, you will never buy another
dinner service. You’ll always have something made
because you experience the pleasure and the uniqueness of that commissioning
process and it’s very special and not all of us have the
talents to make things but we, all of us have the opportunity
at some point in our life to work with a craftsman or a
maker to encourage that. And a building of course, a house or a
opera house, is a giant version of that. It’s a huge made object, commissioned. There has to be a client
and there has to be a maker. And there is a magic in that process. And what I don’t think
is very healthy is when we become just acquirers,
where we just buy. In other words, where we,
because what you’re talking about in your own house, its personal. It’s the way you make a home is the
way that you create your own narrative, your autobiography in the place where
you live, which is really powerful. And it resonates on and it lives on
with your kids and their memories of their bedrooms and their wallpaper
and whatever you do in the home. And it’s the opposite of being
a kind of fetishist you know?>>Yeah.>>That the train spotter who
just collects designer chairs and wants the number of that
particular piece of fetish–>>[inaudible] there is no idea of you
going to someone’s house and you feel, you feel the, a life well-lived
in things that have come into their life in the smallest things.>>Yeah, yeah.>>I remember my uncle used to just cut
things out of the paper and have them on the fridge and I always loved that,
that sort of, just the little things that appeal to you, you
keep and you put up.>>Yeah, so the minimal world can
sometimes be very appealing, you know, it can be very clean, pure, and help
order out thoughts, but it’s also, it’s not for all of us you know? Some of us need that little
bit more freedom of expression as you say, to muck things up a bit.>>Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin McCloud! [ Applause ]>>Thank you. Thank you. [ Applause ]

1 thought on “Kevin McCloud of BBC’s Grand Designs at Sydney Opera House

  1. We invited Kevin McCloud on a tour of the Opera House to see how our decade of Renewal is progressing. Check out the full video here →

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