Friday, 28 September 2012

I'm not afraid to admit...I'm a Kevin McCloud fan

For many visitors to the 2012 Grand Designs Live event in Melbourne the show offered a chance to see a range of new products and services aimed at homeowners housed under one roof...but for me it was about Kevin McCloud.

I have followed the TV show closely for the past 10 years, watching barn and water tank conversions, glass, timber and straw new builds and of course the trials and tribulations of the self-builder.

Kevin has always given a no holds barred critique of the design and build process of these ambitious projects, often at times appearing a bit harsh in his criticism.

But for those of us who listened to his presentation in Melbourne last weekend we got a very different impression of the man.

The fact the theatre was bursting at the seams an hour before he arrived showed the level of celebrity Kevin now has, he is no longer just a guy hosting a design show, he commands a crowd because you can really learn something from him.

He was genuinely taken back by the support he received and gave a down to earth presentation which was both personal and educational.

He talked about the risk in creating a grand design, despite the known facts of budget and schedule over runs, stress level increases and difficulty in getting it 100% right, ultimately its human nature to want to create your own haven and the reward at the end of the process is well worth it.

Kevin also shared his own passion for sustainable housing, now in his 5th social housing development in the UK, Kevin allowed the first project to be filmed but says the process was horrible and an invasion of privacy for the home-owners and for that reason her won't be doing it again. His honesty in admitting where he went wrong was to be admired. 

During his `slumming it' program where he went to live in Asia's largest slum for 2 weeks to learn about the sense of community, his research uncovered an alarming statistic that it is estimated by the time the world's population reaches 9 billion, 3 billion people will be living in slums.

When it came to discussing some of his favourite episodes Kevin didn't just talk about the buildings, architecture and design, in fact in most cases what he talked about was the people. We discovered many of the owners had become friends and Kevin continued to be a part of their lives long after the show.

In terms of the future of moden architecture he believes we are starting to create new design languages rather than re-labelling traditional styles from past eras like the 50's.

This current project of a stacked box style design with camouflaged windows was given as an example of the type of exciting design he is starting to see.

Following the 30 minute presentation I left the theatre inspired and wandered the show floor to soak up all I could, it was great to see so many Australia companies and designs of world-class standard and it was evident the celebrity of Kevin McCloud had attracted a high standard of exhibitors.

If you get a chance to attend this event in the future I highly recommend it and of course watch Grand Designs for your Kevin fix.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Viva Las Vegas

I truly believe there is no other place in the world quite like Las Vegas.
My first time to Vegas was in 2003 for a holiday where I was dazzled by the intense lights and 24 hour buzz of the place.
This time around was for business and I was determined to try to discover more to Vegas than the flashy casinos and crazy characters on every street corner.
Arriving in my hotel New York New York started the trip with a familiar feeling of being transported into a movie set where nothing seemed very real.
New york style streets, restaurants and monuments set the scene and a few goes on the slot machines got me into my part.
Jumping on a bus outside the hotel heading toward Fremont Street was a great adventure and an opportunity to experience the less touristy part of  Vegas and soak in some of the history.
My first stop was the Arts District, living in Melbourne I am always attracted to street art and so this place really appealed to me.
A small cluster of abandoned buildings, boarded up with tumbleweed rolling by had been transformed by artistic designs and bold use of colour.
Fremont street is best experience when the sun goes down the reveal a retro neon light show like no other.
Many of Vegas's original signs have been restored here and unlike the glitzy Vegas strip, this part of town feels more authentic.
The Golden Nugget casino is a great example of an authentic casino exterior with light bulb facade and red carpet entrance, with this type of authenticity you don't mind the slightly dated interior or faint scent of stale cigarette smoke...its cool. I was even lucky enough to see Jim Carrey existing the casino after shooting part of his latest movie which was a thrill.
I then discovered one of the most crazy restaurants I have every experienced, something only Americans would come up with - Heart Attack Grill.
As the name would suggest this is not for the healthy eating fanatics, this restaurant concept is based on the idea that gigantic fatty burgers are a good thing and if you weigh a lot because of this you will be celebrated by eating for free.
Staff are dressed as nurses and doctors and you are encouraged to put on a hospital gown on arrival. If you are game you can weigh in and if you are lucky to exceed the weight limit you will hear cheering from across the room.
Burgers are cleverly named bypass, triple bypass and quadruple bypass for obvious reasons...
Perhaps my greatest discovery in this part of town was the Neon Museum, also known as the Neon Graveyard.
This place is a non for profit wonderland full of signs which have been saved from ruined casinos since 1996.
You are met by a volunteer tour guide who has a great passion for the rich history of neon signs in vegas and are given the chance to wander through a giant lot of hundreds of discarded original signs.
The boneyard features all the great signs and is a living museum full of stories of days gone by.
As you walk around and discover the beauty behind the signs you are told the stories behind them to and you can't help but feel a little sad that the hotels which once held these signs so dear are no longer on the strip, instead have been replaced by newer model.
The new Vegas isn't a bad place, in fact some of the interiors of the new hotels like the Wynn, Encore and Cosmopolitan are a thing of beauty in an extravagant kind of way of course. 
The wedding chapel tradition has even been given a modern twist with the introduction of a Pop Up Chapel/Retail store. You can drop by and get married with tourists peering through the shop window then as you are on your way out you can pick up a few gifts for romantic.
And finally to the real reason I was in Vegas, CES - the world's largest consumer electronics show. over 2,500 exhibitors, 100's or thousands of visitors and kilometres of exhibition halls to walk through and discover the latest and greatest in technology.
Vegas was a great experience, one that my feet are still recovering from but a place of inspiration, excitement and discovery all rolled in to one.