GEORGE Clarke is standing in the charred remains of the once magnificent Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed library at Glasgow School of Art and he can't quite believe his eyes.

Clarke - one of the most familiar faces in the UK architectural world thanks to his string of popular TV series - is amazed that the shell of the room is still intact.

The Sunderland-born architect and broadcaster was travelling from Leeds to Glasgow on May 23 last year, when he learned that fire had broken out in the art school - a building he'd always loved, having been a fan of Mackintosh's work since studying architecture at Newcastle University. Clarke, who was coming north to appear in the Ideal Home Show at the SECC, arrived in the city late at night and went straight to the scene, where embers still smouldered from a blaze that had devastated the world-renowned art nouveau library, damaged the west wing and destroyed much of the final year students' work.

We meet exactly a year later, at the end of May, 2015. Clarke, back in Glasgow for this year's Ideal Home Show, has been granted a look behind the scaffolding and tarpaulin covering the Renfrew Street grade A-listed building, some 90% of which has been saved thanks to the efforts of the fire service.

Though tears are sometimes not far from him eyes when he interviews subjects on Channel 4's The Restoration Man and hears the drama involved in their personal stories to rescue neglected architectural treasures, George Clarke is surprisingly upbeat today.

"Seeing any building of architectural or historic significance being burnt down is awful and I was genuinely devastated last year standing on the corner of Scott Street looking at it when it happened. But there's no point in crying about it, what's done is done. I am pleasantly surprised at how much is left. I honestly thought in the library I'd be standing on the ground floor or the basement level looking up at the sky - that much would have been gone," he marvels.

As presenter of Amazing Spaces (which celebrates ingenious and eccentric small builds), and Shed Of The Year (which airs on Channel 4 tonight), George Clarke is architecture's Everyman, his down-to-earth manner and thick north-east accent providing a refreshing antidote to the snootier presenting style of some of his broadcasting counterparts. Maybe viewers take to Clarke because he grew up in a place many can relate to - not a Georgian townhouse or a Victorian villa but a council estate.

He fondly retells stories about caravan holidays in Redcar, the low-budget leaded windows badly installed in his family council house in Washington, Tyne and Wear, and the weird and wonderful creations that appeared from his stepfather's DIY corner at home. He wouldn't have swapped it for the world.

"Washington was a new town and the quality of the architects and master planners and landscape architects was incredible, really innovative. I was brought up on a brilliant estate where it was all affordable housing -council housing - but within lovely pedestrianised spaces where we all used to play really safely," he says.

It is no surprise his childhood memories sound like the description of a set of architectural plans. His father, a keen amateur artist, died when Clarke was just six but he remembers drawing with him and spending time with his builder grandfather on construction sites when he wasn't at school. You could say his life was drafted out at an early age: the practicality of his grandfather blended with the artistic flair of his father was the perfect combination to propel a bright lad on to university and a career in architecture.

His grandfather passed away last year but the old man left an indelible mark on Clarke. "He was a big inspiration, a real hero for me. He used to say, 'If you get a trade in the building industry you'll always be alright. You can travel the world, you have a proper trade that will stay with you for the rest of your life.' I became an architect rather than a builder but he was right," reasons Clarke.

That pragmatic thinking is apparent in Clarke's optimistic outlook on the regeneration of Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh building.

"The integrity of the rooms is still there, albeit damaged. There is structural damage that can be repaired and the rest of it is joinery work. This is me putting a really positive spin on it but in some ways I think, we're going to have a generation of master craftsmen and joiners and stone restorers working on that building. If you were a young apprentice and I was brought on to restore Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art, you'd never forget that for the rest of your life."

As a Mackintosh enthusiast, Clarke had visited the GSA several times before the fire. "I came to Scotland a lot when I was a student, and I remember in my first year we went on a long weekend to Glasgow to genuinely study the buildings, not just to drink beer, although I did that as well," he grins.

Delighted to get the opportunity to see inside the art school, he admits he was thinking: "What I would give to work on a restoration project like this?"

He explains: " You can see everyone involved has not only a real love for the building but a passion to restore it. And they want to be part of it. In 50 years' time there are going to be old men and women walking around Glasgow saying, 'I worked on that building. I restored that.'

"There's a lovely moment in a Restoration Man episode with a guy called Jim who worked on an old school that had been abandoned and he said: 'I just love the building, I have fallen in love with it. In so many years' time when I've gone, someone is going to walk past this building and go, - I know who restored that, it was Jim.'

"Looking at the team in there now and the passion of the people behind it, this will be an incredible restoration project that will win every heritage award imaginable and it's not even done yet. It's sad but I think a lot of good is going to come from it. I think with a bit of graft and tough determination, hopefully it won't take too long. I'll be back every year to have a look, if not more often."

Though Clarke's passion for architecture is as solid as the foundations of the Tyne Bridge, working in television was never part of the plan. The matey, easygoing manner and boyish smile we see on screen is exactly what you get in the flesh, along with an effortless charisma that charms just about everyone who crosses his path. At the Ideal Home Show he swiftly switches from a stage presentation to a crowd of several hundred people to sign books and poses for endless photos with well-wishers. The effect is startling: he appears to be genuinely interested in everyone he meets. In his company for just a few hours, I witness one woman left speechless after Clarke asks for her name at a book signing, and a couple of blokes quietly marvelling at how good his hair still looks when he takes his hard hat off for a photograph.

It is hard to believe he was a reluctant recruit to the world of television. So how did it happen?

"I had an architectural practice and a building company and I was teaching at Newcastle University and Nottingham University," he recalls. "I was asked to do some research, then write a book on architecture, so I got a book agent and I didn't realise that she was also a broadcasting agent. I signed for her on the Thursday for the book, and then she called me on the Monday and asked if I'd ever thought about doing television.

"I said no and she said she had just come off the phone from a channel wanting to do a property series and they wanted to talk to me about it and would I be interested. I said no for another couple of days and she finally suggested a screen test. I went along and got the job. I still said I didn't know if I wanted to do it. I loved being an architect, I loved the building game and I wasn't looking for that at all. It just wasn't on my radar.

"I have the best job in the world. I love buildings, I love architecture, and I love meeting people who are as passionate about homes and design and architecture as I am. The travel is insane and it's not great living out of a suitcase. When I actually get on site, it's the best. I get to meet really brave people who are doing restoration projects. I feel happier on a building site than I do anywhere else. I know I say the word 'amazing' too much, but it is - I feel really blessed and very lucky."

Now Clarke's three young children reap the benefits of his expertise with an impeccably designed garden playroom, and hopefully an affection for their father's influences. His youngest, daughter Iona, was just two weeks old when Clarke took the family north to her island namesake.

"We called her Iona because it was a name I loved and because I travelled around Scotland a lot when I was younger, and did a lot of walking and climbing in the Highlands as a teenager.

"We all got the train to Glasgow, stayed there for the night, got up the next day and took the train to Oban, a ferry, a bus and another boat to get to Iona and stayed there for three or four days," he says fondly, recalling the Iona trip.

"It was a lovely thing to do. Obviously [Iona] can't remember any of it because she was so young. She's eight now, it seems a long time ago. It felt like a really nice pilgrimage to go to quite a spiritual, beautiful island. It's a magical place. It ties in with stuff I'm interested in. I'm from the north-east - I love Durham Cathedral and Lindisfarne. Saint Bede and these places linked up with Iona. It felt really natural for me to do that. I'll have to take her back one day."

After a divorce from his wife Catriona last year, Clarke has bought a new home in London. This seems as good a time as any to find out how the presenter of Amazing Spaces lives.

"I love any kind of building as long as it is a good one. People say, 'You must live in a really old building because you're the Restoration Man' and sometimes I'll talk about really modern pieces of architecture on Amazing Spaces and they go, 'I thought you were Restoration Man'. It's not about style for me. I wouldn't say I was into modern buildings or traditional buildings, I'm into really good buildings," he says.

"I've just bought a post-war 1960s house and I love it. It's a really good, clever piece of design by Greater London Authority. It has great space standards, really well-planned efficient rooms, no wasted space whatsoever. It's a brilliant house. Obviously when I bought it, it was very tired and dated but I'm working with the existing house to make it really beautiful. For me it's a 1968 restoration project, which is really cool.

"It's going to be like Mad Men. I want a classic 1960s interior. I love 1950s and 1960s furniture: the Charles and Ray Eames furniture, that modernist look, I'm a big fan of that. But classically designed, there aren't going to be any gimmicks.

"I'm still at the planning stage, so it's all in my head. There will be a big open-plan kitchen, dining and living space on the ground floor and that will be the best space in the house."

If the crowds of women who excitedly queued at his book signing after his SECC appearance are anything to go by, Clarke's star is far from waning. It happens a lot, he laughs, but he's not complaining. When I mention newspaper reports I have read about women sending him underwear to sign, he groans with embarrassment.

"My poor agent has to open up those packages. Someone threw a bra on stage once at an event. I get sent all sorts of, how shall I phrase this, lovely and interesting things sent through," he smiles.

Changing the face of British architecture has never been such a colourful challenge.

Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year is on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm.