The Secret Life Of Buildings Review: Brick S**t House

THE SECRET LIFE OF BUILDINGS: Monday 1st August, C4, 8pm

Could modern housing in the UK be having an adverse effect on our happiness and our health? According to big-spectacled architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff, Yes! We all know that our homes have the ability to wreck our bank balance, but in the first of this three part series C4 investigate how our houses can also screw us over mentally, physically and socially.

In his first experiment, Dyckhoff spends a week in a darkened apartment after transforming his home by downsizing the huge windows. After just seven days our host’s tests reveal that his mood is deflated, his motivation has sunk and his blood sugar levels comes close to that of a diabetic. But Dyckhoff did not spend a week in a prison cell, just a place with windows the same size as the national average. With these alarming results in mind, the architecture boffin then goes in the search for answers as to why England is building some of the smallest houses in the western world.

In his quest Dyckhoff travels to other European countries to compare other living conditions. He visits the ‘Eight House’ complex in Copenhagen, which is described by its architect as “Architectural bigamyâ€?. He claims that you can have both, that being Urban Modern living with a community feel, unlike the sterile new housing complexes we see in England. Next he’s off to a housing development in Holland where you can design your own home. As seen on shows such as Grand Designs, designing your own home in the UK is an expensive and often stressful affair. Yet in Holland you can get the house of your dreams for a very affordable price. Why then does the UK not do the same you may ask?

Dyckhoff then makes us all slightly more depressed by crushing any hope first time buyers had for creating their own dream homes by highlighting the realities of UK bureaucracy and endless planning obstacles. Unsurprisingly money is the main goal of British property developers, so apparently we are getting more houses, but in an ever decreasing size. While our European neighbours have relatively desirable living conditions, in England things are looking pretty bleak – and we’re not talking about the weather folks..

Ultimately The Secret Life of Buildings is an intriguing and thought provoking programme. Tom Dyckhoff is a likeable and engaging host and the mix of scientific experiments, alongside a social commentary on the way modern Britain lives makes for a promising series. His concept for the documentary is original and intrigues and concerns in equal measure. We’ll be looking forward to episode two..