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INTERVIEW: TV's George Clarke On The Housing Crisis

Posted by Mark Cantrell on December 24, 2012 at 8:15 AM


George Clarke

Television was the last thing on architect George Clarke’s mind when he was starting out, but he took to it with gusto and his clear passion for good design and quality homes has made a winning champion for empty homes, but as he tells Mark Cantrell solving the housing crisis will take nothing less than a radical overhaul of the entire system

From an early age, George Clarke aspired to become an architect but by his own admission he kind of fell into television; he’s never looked back, however, and his presence on prime-time telly has served to add clout to themes that are close to his heart.

In a sense, it all started back on the building sites of his childhood in Sunderland. “My grandfathers were both builders so when I was a kid I used to be on building sites a lot, during school holidays and weekends, always helping out,” Clarke said. “At the same time, I had a huge passion for drawing. My granddads said from the earliest age I’d just sit there drawing for ages and ages. Then I tended to start drawing buildings. I spent so much time around them so I sketched them a lot. And it just moved on from there.

“I didn’t really know what an architect was when I was seven or eight years old; once I started getting to 10, 11, 12 and started reading books about buildings, architecture was the only thing that I wanted to do. I had a huge passion for buildings on every level, the way they were built, the way they were designed, and I just enjoyed reading about them. I remember, really, being about 12 years old, thinking I want to be an architect, and never wavered from it for a second.”

That unwavering commitment took him to the university of Newcastle and then university College London, where he studied architecture. By 2000 he was working his dream, having established his first practice, Clarke: Desai, with business partner Bobby Desai. Television was the last thing on his mind.

“I just stumbled into it. I literally just stumbled in,” he said. At the time, alongside running his practice, he was teaching at Newcastle University as a visiting architect and tutor, he was also writing a book. “I didn’t realise that it was a broadcasting agent as well as a literary agent. And so I signed for them on a Thursday afternoon and on the Monday morning she called me and asked had i ever thought about television?”

The agent pitched the idea and sold him on the screen test; he went along and subsequently got the job. “So literally between the Thursday afternoon and the following Tuesday, it kind of changed everything really,” he said.

He’s been on air now since 2003, first with Channel 5 – ‘Build A New Life’ – and then with Channel 4 where he’s since become the “face of architecture”. His show reel includes ‘Property Dreams’ (2004, C5), ‘Dream Home Abroad’ (2005, C5), ‘Build A New Life In The Country’ (2005-2007, C5). For Channel 4 he’s made ‘The Homes Show’ and ‘The Restoration Man’; all told they convey his infectious enthusiasm for architecture, for buildings, for homes, and the tremendous impact they can have on our lives.

But it was ‘The Empty Homes Show’, aired in December last year, that proved Clarke’s ‘call to arms’ – and one that was answered beyond even his wildest dreams.

Read the rest of the interview HERE.

Northern, Midlands, and Southern Housing,

October-November 2012



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