How would you like to live in a mock castle? Perhaps you’d like to add an entire dwelling area to the structure? No. Well, tonight we watch someone else do it by watching Grand Designs.
What is Grand Designs? It is a television program, hosted by Kevin McCloud, an architect who, on each episode, observes various domestic dwellings being constructed or restored. It is currently shown on ABC1 at 8.30pm on Tuesday nights. The stories of those who will eventually make these various structures their homes are woven into the story of the progression of these buildings. Usually, the people are easily as fascinating as the buildings.
One million pounds has bought Dean and Sarah a stone castle in Newport, Wales, called The Folly. Their plans include a restoration of the building and the construction of further living areas around it. As the project starts the couple make the choice to manage the project themselves, particularly Sarah. Their architect becomes basically a consultant. Proverbially, the person who provides legal advice for themselves has a fool for a client; McCloud shows similar scepticism about the owner who manages their own building project. So what do we learn?
Well, we learn that Dean and Sarah, both successful in business, and who have (apparantly) limitless funds, are formidable people. Though she wears a pink hard hat and safety jacket, Sarah oversees the project with efficiency and focus. These are skills that she have served her in business and family life. Dean is supremely confident she is more that equal to the task.
McCloud becomes more and more impressed with her capacities, but remains concerned for the overall outcome.
You can read about the progress of the project and its outcome here.
What can we learn from this sort of program?
McCloud himself sums it up when he states that not only is their new home a landmark in the local region, the project is a landmark in their lives.
We can learn much about people by the way they encounter and deal with adversity in a project that is so personal. Our home represents something about our personalities. If we have been involved in their building (which I have not) they reveal our taste and our desires for the life we would like for our families.
Such a project is a window into a person’s will and desires. Even when McCloud tries to persuade Sarah to change a detail such as render she holds implacably firm.
Why watch such a show? Well, it tells its stories very well. The viewer wants to see a dream come true. We want to see adversity met. The show is really a romance. It is a romance between people and their ideal, and what they do to achieve it. Each show concludes with a tour of the finished structure, because this is not a program simply about bricks and mortar, but about the marriage of structure and those who live within.
Dean’s greatest pride is not the building. It is his wife.
Sometimes you will shy away from these builders, put off by their fastidiousness and extravagance. Other times you will take satisfaction in watching their dreams come true, often pressured by cost overruns and unforseen difficulties.
But you’ll always view a well conveyed story. And from that you’ll think about your own home and how that place both nurtures and shelters you and those you love.

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