Grand Designs UK: Brutalist ‘ark’ to tackle climate change is controversial

REVIEW: The sustainability of climate change is a hot topic, and finally, we see a grand designs build that tackles this head.

And wow, what a plan – this project is kind of like building an oil rig to float above the ocean. The amazing graphics (not to be missed) depict exactly what will happen when owner Geoff wakes up to a flood.

If it is a relatively small flood, dyke walls will keep the water out of his garden and house, which will be like an island; and if it is a big flood, the height of the house will ensure that he will always sit above the water, like a captain on a ship.

Grand Designs UK presenter Kevin McCloud (right) meets landlord Geoff who has tackled climate change head-on with a home set to survive a thousand-year flood.

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Grand Designs UK presenter Kevin McCloud (right) meets landlord Geoff who has tackled climate change head-on with a home set to survive a thousand-year flood.

At the start of the show, Geoff, 63, who grew up in the East End and made his fortune in advertising, announces his flash villa in Spain. He has been retired for seven years and is bored with retirement. He therefore returned to England to be closer to his family and friends.

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He bought 3ha of land on the “flat, gray windswept banks of the Blackwater Estuary in Essex”. Grand Designs UK presenter Kevin McCloud gets all poetic and calls it “a watery desert at the edge of the world”, but it’s a floodplain.

This photo is misleading - the house is much bigger than it looks here.

CHANNEL 4

This photo is misleading – the house is much bigger than it looks here.

There is no doubt that Geoff has a great view from his elevated position.

CHANNEL 4

There is no doubt that Geoff has a great view from his elevated position.

“I could go anywhere and I choose to come here,” Geoff tells us. “It’s great, this view.

“Everyone thinks I’m making a mistake, but the more everyone thinks I’m making a mistake, the more I think I’m doing it well… A lot of that comes down to the fact that I’m always right.”

It is a very complex construction, requiring 30 piles penetrating 14m into the ground and a truly massive cantilevered steel frame. McCloud describes it as a “radical, weighty response to our changing climate.”

Geoff brought a touch of his Spanish villa in Essex, customizing the interior of his home with bright colors.

CHANNEL 4

Geoff brought a touch of his Spanish villa in Essex, customizing the interior of his home with bright colors.

And not a cheap answer. The estimated construction cost is £650,000 to £700,000. But Geoff has sold a house he owned in London, so he has the money to start building.

In the meantime, he lives in a trailer on site. As often happens on this show, the villa takes forever to sell, and Geoff ends up accepting considerably less than a previous offer, selling it for just over £1million.

By then all systems should be working, but it’s not because Covid hits and stalls for five months. “It’s frustrating to have a million pounds in the bank and not be able to spend it,” says Geoff.

Work on the wrong drawings

But eventually, the work begins again. There are 1500 drawings detailing the massive steel frame and cantilever. But halfway through, the team finds out they’ve been working on the wrong drawings (there must be 1501).

The house has also been made permanent with an elevator, which Geoff refuses to use.

CHANNEL 4/Stuff

The house has also been made permanent with an elevator, which Geoff refuses to use.

This mistake would normally be blamed on the project manager, which is Geoff, who doesn’t think he should be blamed for anything because he’s paying for it. The error sets them back six weeks.

Geoff is a philosopher: “I will never be beaten, although occasionally I am beaten at golf.

He goes up to the first floor and discovers the view of the estuary for the first time, then returns west with the sun setting on the horizon, and he already plans to do it with “a glass of something and a Big Cuban Cigar”.

The spacious open-plan living room opens to the view.

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The spacious open-plan living room opens to the view.

A bright pink splashback enlivens the otherwise monochromatic kitchen.

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A bright pink splashback enlivens the otherwise monochromatic kitchen.

Meanwhile, Geoff hates caravan life and televised meals – he didn’t make a fortune living like this. He sometimes hangs out in stores just to warm up.

Sometimes you get the feeling that McCloud isn’t quite sure what to think of him. When Geoff talks about his childhood, he says: “Back then, people in the East End cleaned their teeth with bicycle chains. It’s true.” It’s no surprise to learn that he took up boxing, like his father.

Then it rains in Essex and the floodplain starts to flood, as it does. This makes for a very muddy site. And the windows are delayed. Geoff is jaded. But he says there are plenty of people worse off than him. “People who are alone and sick. I’m not sick (pause); I am alone.”

There's a different green carpet in his home office - to match the landscape.

CHANNEL 4

There’s a different green carpet in his home office – to match the landscape.

His honesty is refreshing – what you see is what you get (colorful language and all).

The house, meanwhile, is starting to look a bit like a “bungalow on a box.”

Floating high above the ground

And then it’s time for the reveal. McCloud got the bungalow right. The house is a massive bungalow floating above ground. It’s quite bizarre, but there’s a clever asymmetry in the roofline.

The giant, solid overhang extends just beyond its walled garden (which has yet to be planted). And the whole thing is like an island in a sea of ​​mud. And of course, the plan is that it will be an island in the water when the century-old flood hits.

You can get an idea of ​​the size of the massive overhang from this photo.

CHANNEL 4

You can get an idea of ​​the size of the massive overhang from this photo.

But the scale of the thing is so grand – it hovers way above the head of anyone who approaches the front door. Sadly, UK viewers didn’t take back their negative comments, with many saying they thought it was the worst house they had ever seen.

There’s a certain brutalist feel to it when you see it up close, but it’s not that bad. Architecturally, it could have been more interesting. It seems like a lost opportunity.

House like a “fighter”

“The closer you get to it, the wilder, bolder it gets,” McCloud says. “The building has all the poise and resilience of a fighter, ready to withstand rising tides.”

It’s Geoff everywhere – this house suits him. But let’s hope he has plans to make the entrance at the back of the house more attractive. It’s not the prettiest.

He also did his own thing inside.

The colorful decor is, finally, “interesting”, starting with the pale green and bright gold linen. Joyful. Then we go upstairs – there is an elevator. After all, it’s about preparing for the future, although Geoff struggles to point out that it’s not for him. (More on this later.)

And here is the laundry, in bright gold and green – at least it's not in the kitchen.

CHANNEL 4

And here is the laundry, in bright gold and green – at least it’s not in the kitchen.

Really, this space is all about that view. It’s easy to imagine how surreal it would look if there really was a flood. But no, we don’t wish that on anyone.

Geoff’s bedroom is entirely contained within the cantilever. Again, her penchant for bright colors makes the piece pop. “The only person he has to please is himself,” McCloud says. “It’s not bland; it’s not gray; it’s not fashionable. But this is Geoff’s autobiography. It’s quite humbling and magical to experience.

McCloud again compares the house to its owner – a physical embodiment of his spirit, “a fighter – this one is fighting climate change”.

The completely cantilevered bedroom has a cozy vibe, with a pink rose rug and contrasting blue-green sofa.

CHANNEL 4

The completely cantilevered bedroom has a cozy vibe, with a pink rose rug and contrasting blue-green sofa.

There is an underlying Peter Pan theme to this show. It’s clear that Geoff is also struggling with aging – he loves the age he is right now and can’t imagine he’ll still be here 15 years from now. God forbid her having to use the elevator. (In 15 years, someone will show him this clip and he’ll probably laugh.)

Whatever you think of this project, you cannot deny that it is a grand design. Geoff even managed to stick to his budget, spending £700,000 ($1.319 million NZ).

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