Architectural discourse as jazz piano improvisation
With 25 years' broadcasting experience behind him, Maxwell Hutchinson is the architectural profession's man on the box. Last week you might have seen him present the last of his four hour-long programmes on the history of a Georgian house in Bristol. The first programme of the Channel 4 series attracted 2.1 million viewers, about 10% of the national audience at the peak viewing time of 8 to 9pm.

As well as being front man for No 57, The History of a House, Hutchinson helped to develop the idea, and wrote an 80,000-word book to accompany the series. Before that, he wrote and presented three sets of 15 half-hour programmes for the Discovery Channel called Prefabs and Palaces, Mod Cons and Pure Inventions, each focusing on a pair of buildings, from Blenheim Palace to a wartime prefab home.

Hutchinson's chief media assets are clear, loud diction – akin to a schoolmaster's end-of-year address – and a rapid-fire volley of soundbites, most of them with a historical perspective. "Everybody wants to be in television nowadays," he says. "It's what cinema was in the 1930s and mass book publication in the 1840s."

"Being on television is not what it looks like on the screen," he continues. "Television wants you for 100% of your time, and it's absolutely gruelling. There are 14-hour days, long journeys and overnight stays. And then you've got to make up what you're going to say on the spot, like performing jazz piano."

As well as being a media star, Hutchinson remains a practising architect. He runs a four-person practice in London's most happening architectural area, Clerkenwell. In 1989, he reached the peak of his profession by becoming RIBA president. Although Hutchinson pips Piers Gough to the title of most widely broadcast architect on British television, he feels he has still to make it to the big time. "I've not broken through the glass ceiling, as [the historian] David Starkey has. I'm knocking on it."