Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud says if there is a lesson we should take from COVID-19, it should be that architecture should connect not isolate people.
Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud says if there is a lesson we should take from COVID-19, it should be that architecture should connect not isolate people.

Our homes will change after COVID-19, says TV star

Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud believes Australians will abandon their new found fetish for sour dough and other artisanal pursuits picked up during the pandemic as soon as authorities "take the clamps off".

The beloved TV presenter and design expert reluctantly predicts our acute fascination for our homes and simple living will evaporate once lockdown laws lift.

Speaking from his home in Bath, England, McCloud said the UK example, where thousands stormed the beaches as soon as isolation eased, "completely ignoring social distancing," would likely be repeated here as people reverted to old habits.

"The moment you take the clamps off, it will immediately revert to the economic mayhem we had beforehand," he told News Corp Australia.

"The delicate, more socially aware, generous, spiritually more heightened state that we went into … examining our navels and our inner selves, and all going green at the same time … you know, not travelling, not burning fuel, growing our own, making sour dough … I think that's going to go straight out the window and we'll all go shopping again."

People will return to their old ways post-COVID-19, says Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud. Picture: ABC ©Tony Buckingham/UNP
People will return to their old ways post-COVID-19, says Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud. Picture: ABC ©Tony Buckingham/UNP

He said, unsurprisingly, that lockdown had driven a new boom in DIY, as the world stares at their own four walls.

"Ordinarily you're too busy but I've spent hours staring at a mark on the wall, wondering what to do about it. I suspect that's the same for all of us … we've all got a little bit more excited, or precious about our homes," he said.

More seriously, he said the pandemic would force architects and developers to make our homes "more resilient in dealing with climatic confrontations we will face" - whether that be more viruses or climate extremes.

His last trip before border closures was to Australia, where he delivered the key note speech for the Australian Institute of Architects in February.

It came just days after the bushfire threat had lifted across Canberra and the NSW south coast, inspiring deep consideration by McCloud about how we should rebuild.

"I thought this a lot when I was in Australia because the fires were very fresh in everyone's minds, but the best architecture is the best design … design that is resilient."

"There's this great American architect … Charles Moore and he would say 'architecture should be an instrument of connection not an instrument of isolation.' And so, much of what we've built since the middle of the 20th century has been very isolating.

Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud with homeowners Harry and Bryony Anscombe in a scene from season 16, episode two. McCloud says the way we design homes has to change. Picture: ABC-TV
Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud with homeowners Harry and Bryony Anscombe in a scene from season 16, episode two. McCloud says the way we design homes has to change. Picture: ABC-TV

"It's encouraged us to get into our individual little tin boxes (cars) and drive home to our individual little wood boxes, then sit down on our sofa and watch another little box that sits in the corner. It's all very isolating and contained.

"What the fires did was suddenly bring communities together and I'm hopeful that in finding our way forward we built houses that not only do they have to be resilient in delating with the climatic confrontations we will face - whether that is viruses or fires or big temperature differentials.

"For example - not only does it have to be intelligent by design, and clever, and green, because it has to try to do this without relying on lots of fossil fuels … but I hope we do it in a community way."

Pointing to examples of communal design and living in Holland and New Zealand, specifically Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake, he says "Architects and developers have been exploring ways to use architecture that is earthquake resistant, low impact and low energy, but also encourages a degree of communal living.

"Whether that be people grow food together, or they have a car club, so they can share their resources a bit so they can achieve a little bit of economic independence. Life is cheaper, life is easier and hopefully there's a little bit more social cohesion."

* Grand Designs, season 17 returns 7.40pm, Sunday June 7 on ABC. All previous seasons streaming on BINGE

Originally published as How homes will change post-COVID-19


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