George Clarke’s ‘More Amazing Spaces’

  • Building Design Expert
  • 4 weeks ago

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Turning the pages you will almost certainly find some pretty amazing spaces, but those spaces are the result of some fairly amazing stories too. In fact the stories are largely the driving forces behind the projects in almost every case.

 

A general lack of time has generally meant the TV series have eluded me. So, presented with this opportunity to review the book has provided some black and white perspective, with a large helping of objectivity. Fans of the BDE Podcast may recall that I met with and interviewed George while we were both at a Grand Designs event in London a few years ago. He was there in his celebrity architect guise, and I was simply one of many on the ‘Ask the Expert’ stand. But have no fear; our brief interaction then has not influenced my appraisal of this publication now. In general terms you will probably note that with a few minor exceptions I like the content, and I will now explain why.

First and foremost what I like about this book is its design in the way the content has been assembled. This is not simply a collection of stories about building projects – that would be tedious. The content has been split into very edible sections, where each section is laid out very differently, both in terms of the depth and length of content, and the way it is ordered and delivered.

There is quite a dynamic opening entitled “Texas Road Trip”. This provides an immediate diversion to any expectation that the projects are UK based. Whilst the projects are interesting from a whacky and diverse view-point. I was immediately inclined to say “only in America”. But why not. It adds a bit of ‘fancy’ to that particular notion, with the diminished prospect of ever pursuing something similar in the UK. Due to the lack of land coupled with the intensity of UK planning laws; such ideas are that much more out of reach.

Planning and Building Regulations

Although there are occasional references to ‘planning’ requirements, many of the book’s projects may have been steeped in the vagaries of such legislation. But we don’t know, as this is one aspect of project development that is not explained in any significant detail. Although what does come across loud and clear is the promotion of partial use of the development budget to employ professional designers. These references demonstrate that payment of professional fees invariably pay for themselves and lead to money saved in the subsequent project development, both in the efficiency of the design and the resulting build quality – Great point, well made!!

Technical content

This is not a ‘how-to’ publication by any stretch. However, I had a few problems with some of the technical references, which admittedly were few: I struggled greatly with the identification of beer cans providing an insulating outer layer to the “Beer-Can House”. Whilst there may be an element of sun reflection going on, the off-set of resulting radiation into the building would be quite significant and any insulation effect negated. The other reference I will make is the that of “tyres filled with cement”, in the “Cathedral of Junk” project. Call it a pet hate, but the use of the term cement, instead of ‘concrete’, does little to promote common knowledge.

There are precious few technical references, which I think, selectively, would have helped explain some of the project rhymes and reasons. The only vaguely technical reference given in “The Warren” project as “George’s own build ideas and tips” – Although this is referred to in the plural, this is actually the only one, and is of dubious value. The book would not have missed its omission.

There are a number of references to “Lessons Learnt”, which are always useful in order to accrue knowledge. But steering clear of technical issues altogether would have been preferable to just dipping a toe into what can be very deep water.


There are a number of “Amazing Spaces” that range from odysseys and self indulgent fantasies, through to quirky business ideas and out and out luxury installations. All have their own place, and contribute to an incredibly diverse collection of really interesting ideas brought to fruition. This collection of projects does the job. They entertain on a level far removed from the packaged delivery of the TV series, and because of that they provoke and inspire at thought level.

If you have a project on the tip of your tongue, but cannot spit it out; this book is a great place to start taking your germ of an idea further.

Thanks to Truedor for supplying the book to review.