Foster, Hadid, Gehry, Nouvel, Piano and more against Prince Charles

A group of ten architects, including Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, and Frank Gehry, signed a letter criticizing Prince Charles for talking against the construccion of luxury houses in Chelsea Barracks, London.

Prince Charles is against the modern design with glass and steel used by architects in the Chelsea district, and wants them to use a more traditional design using stones and bricks. The Sunday Times also said that Prince Charles showed his concern to Qatar’s royal family, owner of the site.

The design was developed by Richard Rogers, member of the House of Lords and known for projects like Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the Millenium Dome in London and the European Court of Human Rights. Rogers, with the other ten architects, accused Prince Charles of taking advantage of his royalty position to attack the architectural plans of the site.

This isn’t the first time that Prince Charles enters the architectural debate, strong supporter of Leon Krier’s New Urbanism.

Full text of the public letter to Prince Charles:


THE Prince of Wales’s intervention over the design of the former Chelsea Barracks site deserves more reasoned comment. It is essential in a modern democracy that private comments and behind-the-scenes lobbying by the prince should not be used to skew the course of an open and democratic planning process that is under way.

Proposals by Richard Rogers’s practice for the developers Qatari Diar were recently submitted for planning to Westminster city council. The scheme has been adapted and changed in response to comments from Westminster’s planning officers and extensive local consultation. Statutory bodies such as the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the Greater London Authority have also been consulted. Westminster’s planning committee will meet and shortly deliver its verdict.

Its members should be left alone to decide whether the Rogers’s scheme is a fitting 21st-century addition to the fabric of London. The developers have chosen carefully in selecting the best architect for the sensitive project. Rogers and his team have played their part in engaging with the democratic process. The prince and his advisers should do the same. The process should be allowed to take its course; otherwise we risk condemning this critical site to years as an urban blight.

If the prince wants to comment on the design of this or any other project, we urge him to do so through the established planning consultation process. Rather than use his privileged position to intervene in one of the most significant residential projects likely to be built in London in the next five years, he should engage in an open and transparent debate.

Lord Foster, Foster and Partners, London, Pritzker Prize 1999
Zaha Hadid, , London, Pritzker Prize 2004
Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Pritzker Prize 2001
Jean Nouvel, Jean Nouvel Architectes, Paris, Pritzker Prize 2008
Renzo Piano, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genoa, Pritzker Prize 1998
, Gehry Partners, Los Angeles, Pritzker Prize 1989
Sir Nicholas Serota, Commissioner, CABE 1999-2006
Richard Burdett, London School of Economics
David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates, London
Deyan Sudjic, Director, Design Museum, London

Cite: Jordana, Sebastian. "Foster, Hadid, Gehry, Nouvel, Piano and more against Prince Charles" 26 Apr 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Dec 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=20645>
  • Kayser

    Prince Charles got owned.

  • Fino

    Architects rising as one…….for modernism. Never thought I would see the day.

    that is all.

  • http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/ Ultra man

    Princes Charles has the right to intervene in a democratic way but sadly his taste for urbanism and architectute are so sad and dull. Have a look at Poundbury, his experimental new town fiasco in England. It was suppose to be a free car town, but it end up being the contrary. He started with the idealistic idea of a New Urbanism type of town, it end up being a Disney village.

  • Tom in London

    This makes me laugh. Days and years go by and anyone who speaks up against monarchy, the BRitish monarchy in particular, is quieted down by being told that the British monarchy is a charming anachronism and they don’t really have any power any more.

    Now looks at this. Obviously they do have power. The only merit of Charles’s mother is that for her whole life she has known how to keep her mouth shut. Charles, on the other hand, cannot keep himself from interfering and every time he does, it becomes evident that he has immense power that nobody can controvert. These people need to go.

  • http://www.platform21.nl/person/4772/en kim

    There have been recent concerns about birds flying perilously into glass of late. Radio 4 aired a very interesting program just last week about such. Could it be there is a point being made to all concerned? If we are to continue to construct glass houses, then the stones of venom may indeed make clear the need for tensile, aviary constructions incorporated into designs especially where our feathered friends are more peril prone, there is a good example of this in Munich. Chelsea is home to the annual Chelsea flower show, and resident Physic gardens, naturally birds will be attracted, so this ought to reflect a need for holistically designing like we give a damn.

  • Ralph Kent

    I don’t agree with Prince Charles’s ideas of urbanism one iota, but I think its highly rich for F O’Gehry to start lecturing about appropriate and sympathetic urban interventions. Maybe it should look like a pair of binoculars, eh, Frank? They would have helped their case enormously to my mind by leaving him and his ego off the list.

    And maybe if Lord Foster spent a bit more time in the UK, and not Switzerland avoiding his taxes (earned on UK projects), he might have a bit more credibility in this debate as well…

  • clara

    I live just 5 minutes from the site in contention and am fully in favour of Prince Charles making a stand.

    If these starchitects claim that Prince Charles is using his power of influence to get in the way of a democratic planning process, then what are they themselves doing? This is a hypocritical and childish act of rebellion.

    Prince Charles, like anyone else, has a right to voice his opinion. In fact I feel that he is giving thousands of people a voice they never had the chance to offer on this issue. The planning process itself needs a radical overhaul, to give the residents of Chelsea a voice – the proposal is insensitive and inappropriate.

    And where does Rogers choose to live? In an old Georgian house.

  • Adam

    It’s outrageous by itself that during a major recession, and when a few thousand of architects have lost their jobs, Prince Charles is using is privileged position to do “experimental urbanism and architecture”. (see link below)
    I guess this says it all about someone and honestly I don’t believe this is a simple “hypocritical and childish act of rebellion”.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/mar/31/prince-charles-fire-station-poundbury

  • http://afhnewdelhi.ning.com/ Gautam

    Although not a resident of the UK, I am able to relate to the issues raised here, because all of humanity stands at the threshold of change today.
    Kim makes a very important point about designing holistically and like we give a damn.
    In the words of Cameron Sinclair,”The argument was never about starachitect vs. non-starachitect ( read Price Charles and the community?) but how we adapt and change as a group of professionals that is dedicated to improving the physical environments that we call life.” In this context, readers might like to refer to the press report on the debate between Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity and Zaha Hadid at the link:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cameron-sinclair/the-architects-dilemma-th_b_185031.html

  • Rob

    Clara,

    There is every difference between what Foster and co are doing here and what Charles is. I agree that the best thing Queen Elizabeth has done as monarch is keep her mouth firmly shut, Charles should take note. We need only look at what Charles thinks is great new architecture to discount him from any public debate on the topic.

  • Alexander

    If You ask the public then You will quickly discover that no one agrees with modern architecture. The poor pigs, who live in modern buildings, do this mostly because they cannot afford a better environment. Architects always were the personal slaves of rich people like the royal Qatar family who shits on everything and everyone. The British royal family is also such a classic client of architects and by that it appears outmost funny, when Prince Charles argues now about the architecture of other royals.
    YOU ALL DO SHIT, ROYAL PEOPLE!
    Short after second hand car salesmen and real estate agents architects are in the meanwhile the most hated professionals. Maybe it is time that those proud star architects think a bit about that? Instead of making useless rumor against a half-honest statement of a typical rich client.
    There is absolute no doubt that most of the modern buildings destroy the optical harmony of some areas. But if we think back: exactly this harmony also could just appear by political violence and rich clients who gave order to – a bit better aesthetically educated – architects. So whats the rumor all about? The rich do what they want and no one can do anything against it. The only freedom that we have is to hate and scoff over those architects. This freedom we should keep :) By the way: Hadids building on Danube channel is still empty (because its so ugly that no one wants to live in it)- and the city of Vienna already thinks about giving it to the homeless people as a night asylum :)) Thank You Zaha!

  • clara

    The issue here is not about whether the monarchy should be abolished, nor is it about Charles’ personal taste.

    The question is about an historical site giving way to a collection of 9 storey glass and steel blocks. Charles is merely saying what alot of people in the area feel but have very little opportunity to demonstrate this, because of the restrictive planning process.

    I’m not saying this is bad architecture – but there is a time and place, and this is not it.

  • e.k.

    1) A really GOOD architect can create a “candy” out of anything, not just out of “Steel, concrete and glass”. And – not JUST luxury architecture, which they are trying to defend here.
    If the talents of our world architectural gurus are so poor in the meanwhile, that they are caught in such tight borders (like materials) – shame on them, what can I say..

    >>

  • e.k.

    2) If the project was at least something worthy, then I could understand this protest letter. But I’ve seen some pic’s – it is going to be SOOOOO ugly.
    I also live in a beautiful old city, Vienna, and it is very pity to see, how often really ugly steel-concrete-glass boxes, called “modern architecture”, destroy romantic spirit of historical parts of the town. I always ask myself “which fool gave them the permission to built that hell among such beauty?!”.
    That’s why I’m totally on the side of Prince Charles concerning his decision. He’s not tasteless, he just tries to keep an aristocratic spirit of the town. >>

  • e.k.

    3) Zaha Hadid… Natively she comes out of totally different environment, totally different culture – how can she judge what fits to European city and what doesn’t fit?
    Isn’t she actually from Iran? Why didn’t she stay there and built her “steel-concrete-glass” ?
    Also, would she a ever dare to open a mouth againt the goverment in her native land? So, what’s going on now?
    Besides, the living house designed by her stands also in Vienna. Completely empty. People call it highly uncomfortable and refuse to live there. >>

  • e.k.

    4) And at last, don’t be blind: the architects just try to save the project, because otherwise they lose clients, money and image of almighty gurus, who can built everything everywhere. No one of them really cares about the essence of the project – they are in the meanwhile too commercial-minded for that. That’s why take it easy – it’s just another conflict around money, nothing special..

    PS. Pity that Renzo Piano is among that society. He actually always was one of my favourites..

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    Well, you know, Prince Charles advocates an architectural tradition that traces itself to the dawn of urbanism in occidental civilization. Vitruvius, Marcantonio Barbaro, and Palladio where o.k. with this line of reasoning and used the power of architecture to ennoble to enrich and inspire entire nations.

    It strikes me that the Prince is absolutely right. One need only look at what has been “accomplished” on the South bank of the Thames to date to understand why it is appropriate to say something.

    Having lived myself in the Albion Riverside complex designed by Foster & Partners and built by Satan, I can tell you just how inappropriate this kind of architecture is to the context of London life. Given the genuinely appalling construction standards I absolutely hazard to think what these buildings are going to look like in 20 years (let alone 200). That said, Albion happens to be the best of this genre residential projects in London.

    It seems preposterous to me that Lord Rogers sees fit to open his mouth. Anyone who has experienced the glories of his approach to architecture at Montevetro or in Terminal 5 (surely the worst new airport terminal in the world) might wonder about who is in possession of the spectacular chutzpah necessary to dive into a public debate.

    What is fascinating to me is to differentiate the signatories to this letter from the predecessors in the world of modern architecture, all of whom reduced the classical canon to its most essential “less is more” bones.

    I give F.O.G. credit as the unique sculptor of his generation, as iconoclastic as Gaudi for his own time. Lord Foster has made mighty contributions to architectural history (and has opted out for tax exile in Switzerland, of all places). The jury is out on Zaha Hadid (at least as far as I am concerned). However, for Lord Rogers one need only think of TERMINAL 5; there is the singular monument to his credibility and creativity. He certainly isn’t Eero Saarinen.

    I is just impossible for me to imagine Corbusier (who took his licks in London), Mies, or even Wright picking this kind of a silly fight. It just goes to show how out of scale architecture actually became in the second Gilded age. The hubris is spectacular, and the nemesis well earned.

    If you want to see great modern architecture going up in London (of our age and appropriate to the concerns of our age) look no further afield than the project underway in London from Hamilton’s Architects for the Elephant & Castle. Here it makes sense to innovate, stimulate, and integrate. Likewise, Robin Partington’s project for Oxford Street, as controversial as it may be, does not break with the vernacular, scale, or tradition of London Architecture.

    The entire question revolves around what is appropriate where. It hardly seems to me that these celebrities who live in glass houses have any place to be pitching stones.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    Apologies for my impassioned absence of punctuation.

  • clara

    Hadid studied at the AA in London, and later taught there – she has spent a good few years in this city – as have Foster and Rogers obviously.

    The question of taste is becoming an overuling issue here – and it shouldn’t be. The fact is that the scheme seems to in no way acknowledge any nearby buildings. In fact it blocks out alot day light for existing residents.

    I question Quatri Diar’s reasons for asking Roger’s to run this project. They too are at fault here, and have cleverly kept rather quiet during this furore.

  • SumGuy

    No Clara, the issue is regarding the methodology that this archaic monarch is using to exert his influence to alter a process that he should have no more say in than any other member of the public.

    Let the projects approval or dismissal be judged on its merits, not by the influence of spoilt brat. Don’t let this man bypass the system, a system that as a head of state he is supposed to represent.

  • Pingback: The Digest. 04.26.09. at C-MONSTER.net

  • francis

    My moolah’s on the royal gigi. Haven’t those “celebs” got enough on their plates?
    Elvis Costello – (I don’t want to go to) Chelsea. “Oh no it does not move me”.

  • Alexander

    When the Dinosaurs are getting too big, they start to eat each other and finally they all die.
    So this story about Prince Charles and the “Star” – architects quarreling against each other really should give us hope for a better future :)

  • George

    I wish FOG still wore those glasses…

  • Manuel Mauricio

    Prince Charles should be quiet?
    To be brief, I can tell you that i do not agree with him but with the architects. The thing is…did or did not the baroness thyssen interveened when Siza wanted to cut all the trees in Paseo de Prado in Madrid. Yes she did and she took advantage of her political and social position.
    I think he is doing exactly what rodgers would do, or zaha, or whatever if placed in such a situation.

  • WN

    Funny thing is that Lord Rogers did the same thing that HRH is being lambasted for back in 2005 when Quinlan Terry designed the adjacent housing for the pensioners.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2005/may/12/urbandesign.arts

    How hypocritical. Well now the joke is on you Rogers. Terry was asked by the local community to produce an alternate proposal. HRH simply pointed this out to an acquaintance in the scary situation that Rogers’ mediocre proposal might get approval. I have visited the site and have to say both proposals do not work. Rogers’ scheme is boring and lazy, creating leftover dead space that is prettily landscaped in the renderings but proven unsuccessful in practice. The social housing is designed to look completely different to the luxury ones… Talk about segregation. The wonderful small scale neighbourhood to the East is begging to be connected through the site, resurrecting the little chapel that Rogers is going to tear down. This proposal is another beautiful jewel when viewed from far, but still far from good. It could be anywhere. Doesn’t say London to me. Terry proposes a campus type courtyard model but that isn’t suitable either for the scale of the surrounding neighbourhood. It is too grand and competes with his nearby project and Wren’s own too. Yet the harmonious street edge would create a fine, lasting backdrop for life on that magnificent leafy street.

  • francis

    Lord Rogers’ work for the Welsh Assembly is one of my fav, his designs have lots to be praised, BUT, on this occasion, his current proposal for Chelsea is still unsuitable for that site. I share WN’s views on this.

    The architects’ letter stinks of “pot calling the kettle black”. Thank goodness HRH voiced his opinion, otherwise, how do you get those bands of elites to submit?

    Unfortunately, this project is private; therefore have issues with “outside” influence. But, it will have a bearing on other projects that is just around our own corner.

    Parts of London should be down-scaled and uniquely leafy to be “London”. We shouldn’t abandon our heritage for square meter age nor be seduce.

  • Bo Lucky

    The fact that the Prince has his own specific taste and ideas that may not necessarily be shared by others, does not make the Rogers’ design any better. It’s so obvious that what he proposes is standing out in a negative way. The Chelsea Barracks Action Group raises very important questions which require to be answered. I hope they will be addressed and the design will be modified to fit the place. Starchitects should build monuments to themselves on their own properties.

  • TO

    Not that I agree with Prince Charle’s take on the project, but come on, is it not just a little hypopcritical for Gehry, Hadid and the like to write an open letter condeming somebody for using their ‘position of priviledge’ to make a statement? The only reason this letter has had any impact is because of the position of priviledge of those who wrote it.

    Beyond this, Price Charles has every right to have an opinion on the project just as everybody else does in the democratic society in which (as the group of architects aptly notes) this is playing out in.

    And lastly, one can’t help but wonder if these architects are more upset about this particular project or that somebody is standing up and saying that architecture isn’t an anything goes profession?

  • http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/ Ultra man

    Wow a lot of rubbish around here, a lot of jealous comments. A lot of bitterness.
    The issue here is simple, it’s not about the egos of architect vs. the bad taste of Prince Charles.

    It is about Disney vs Prada.

    It is about wanting a part of London to become a suburban Disneyland, a PoMo theme park for nouveau-riche, or wanting the same area to become a gentrified suburb for middle class snobs.