AN ARCHITECT and television presenter surprised university students by dropping into an online lecture to offer a few words of encouragement.

George Clarke made an appearance in a Teesside University lecture and told students not to be afraid to push boundaries in their future careers.

The students from the university’s MIMA School of Art and Design have been working on a multi-disciplinary project to prepare bids for the University Design Challenge, set by TRADA, the Timber Research And Development Association.

TRADA is challenging teams of students to produce a masterplan for an area of the Riverside Sunderland development, which will include a ‘village’ community of around 100 desirable homes with green and open spaces on the riverside site.

George, who was born in Sunderland, said: “It was brilliant to learn how energised and engaged the students are with this project. Despite the difficulties of this last year, they have shown amazing resilience and commitment.

“Their interpretation of this really challenging brief, both in terms of the homes designed and the creation of this new urban living quarter does them and their tutors’ immense credit.

The Northern Echo: George Clarke teams meeting with MOBIE studentsGeorge Clarke teams meeting with MOBIE students

“I joined this session today to help ‘gee them on’ and offer some support, but they seem to have the challenge well under control. I can’t wait to see their final designs and I wish them the very best for the competition.”

Also involved in setting the challenge is Sunderland City Council and their Riverside Development Team, along with George Clarke’s Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE), the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI), the British Woodworking Federation, and University Engagement Programme scheme sponsors Timber Trade Federation.

Helen McBride, second year BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design student, said: “It was a lovely surprise to hear from George Clark during our tutorial. He was really down to earth, chatting to us online and he offered really good advice.

“One thing I will take away will be his advice to go beyond the brief and not be scared to push boundaries.”

MIMA School of Art & Design students completing the MOBIE BSc (Hons) Innovative Home Design and Construction, BA (Hons) Interior Design and BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design have been working together to create proposals for the TRADA competition.

Helen, 42, who is originally from Birmingham and now living in Great Ayton, said: “I used to work in interior design and in relation to show houses, but I wanted to get more involved in the renovation side.

“The interiors courses at Teesside University have a really good reputation.”

Rob Andoniou, who is among the first cohort of the BSc (Hons) Innovative Home Design and Construction, said: “It was really helpful to hear from George while working on our assignments as we reach the final leg.

The Northern Echo: George Clarke, who hosts the Channel 4 show Ugly House to Lovely HouseGeorge Clarke, who hosts the Channel 4 show Ugly House to Lovely House

“His approach was really calming and he said to think big, while always keeping focus.

“One piece of advice he gave which has stuck with him is that the client knows what they don’t want, but they don’t always know what they do want.”

Rob, 34, who is originally from Southport and now living in Norton, said: “I was previously a chef manager, but always had an interest in design and have done a lot of woodwork and metalwork and previously involved in a self-build, which made this course perfect for me.”

Richard Sober, Associate Professor in the university’s MIMA School of Art & Design, said: “It was great to get George to come along to the session and offer his encouragement and fantastic that he was impressed by how well our students have coped over the last year and progressed their work.

“The students are on the last few weeks of working on the Sunderland Challenge before they submit it to the judging panel. It has been a fabulous project to be involved in, although a very demanding and ambitious brief.

“It has encouraged the students to produce some amazing creative concepts which we hope might be among the prize winners and included in a public exhibition later in the year.”

To find out more about the MOBIE courses visit

To find out more about studying interior design at the university, visit