Today I delve into the popular world of reality TV shows, those of the renovating and building variety, like ‘The Block’. I’m often asked for my opinion on these shows. It is very much a love/hate relationship for me. I understand their popularity. Most of us dream of creating our perfect home; until that time, it’s nice to imagine it is your turn through the eyes of someone else.
I love the show Grand Designs (UK). I have tried the others, much to the detriment of my blood pressure. It is the only one I watch, the designs aren’t always great, but the show always is. Given that most episodes are filmed in the UK, whose history extends back much further than ours; it offers a greater variety of building types than we have here. Even more interesting, is those projects that weren’t originally built for use as homes, but they convert to do so. It is the presenter Kevin McLeod though that makes the show for me; he is so passionate and honest in his commentary. He says it like it is, and I love seeing the owner’s reactions.
With all these shows, the premise is to not have an architect involved, often not even a builder, which creates the drama as the client undertakes the project on their own, to so called “save money”. The irony is that these projects always go over budget, which I cover in more detail in this previous blog post. What I dislike about these programs is that they are so misleading, inspiring the viewers to also do it themselves, creating their own living drama. Not to mentioned on the local shows, when they talk prices to do the makeover, they don’t include labour, just the materials. Labour is the most expensive component of any project.
Now to design, or in my opinion lack of it. Let’s take for example the show ‘The Block’, where the participants decided to do a room inspired by the great artist Jackson Pollock. I heard of this crime against art/architecture because it was so ghastly it made the papers last week. Ironically when the Australian government purchased Pollock’s painting ‘Blue Poles’ in 1973 for one million dollars, it shocked the public to the degree that they called for the government to be sacked. The painting is today thought to be worth up to $100 million! Nice buy.
But not everyone is an artist or designer. There is only one Jackson Pollock, a true pioneer. Whereas the room inspired by him on ‘The Block’, unlike his paintings, no doubt reduced the home’s value. See below.
That was just one room, I hate to think of what will happen if they do a Picasso inspired kitchen! Those who follow my blog know of my frustration, that only 3% of homes in Australia are designed by architects. Very much reflected in how poorly designed much of our homes are. These shows only reinforce that fact.
I’m not a lawyer, should I ever need one I will call one. I go to the doctor when I am sick, I don’t diagnose myself because I watch a medical TV show. Yet a house worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and dues to its size and complexity takes 9-12 months to build, is apparently something anyone can do.
I’ll finish up on this point: The one time I watched ‘The Block’, I was horrified to see two contestants remove a significant amount of brickwork supporting a fireplace and its chimney above. I yelled expletives at the TV, unable to believe my eyes, and highly concerned about the precariousness of this death trap they had created, potentially about to collapse on them. How is allowing people to put their lives at risk good TV? Later on in that episode the foreman turned up, a real builder. His jaw dropped, and ordered everyone off the building site, as he knew this could collapse at any moment. An engineer later turned up to solve the issue. The client was only upset that the fish tank they ordered to go into the former fireplace would now not fit due to the re-engineering required. No apparent concern that they almost killed themselves!
I’m not saying to stop watching these shows, if you enjoy them that’s great I get it, I love creating homes too, it’s why I do it everyday. But remember: Buildings are there to provide us with safety and shelter, not endanger us. This is not work to be undertaken without using professionals. Some people have a natural flair for design without any training, but there are many more who are even better at it, so much so that they made it their livelihood, and invested time training to do so. Good design pays you back in many ways. Bad design costs you so much more than you thought you saved.