‘What is proposed is like a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved and elegant friend.”
It’s easy to see why British Architects get their hackles raised when it comes to Prince Charles. The oft-quoted gem above, said in reference to a proposed extension to the National Gallery in 1984, is one of hundreds of such Architectural criticisms Prince Charles has made over the years. Which wouldn’t matter of course, if, like any average Architectural layman’s opinions, his words didn’t have much weight.
His do. They’ve resulted in the intervention, squelching, and/or redesign of at least 5 major plans over the last twenty years. But let’s not write off Charles just yet.
With the Queen’s Jubilee ceremoniously having finished yesterday, the conversation analyzing her legacy has begun. And while London’s towering, cutting-edge high rises (a la Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Zaha Hadid), will be the shining examples of Elizabeth’s reign – I’d like to suggest something, and raise a few hackles, myself…
Curious for more? Keep reading about Prince Charles’ unlikely influence on Architecture, after the break…
On holiday in Dorset last month, I happened to drive past Poundbury in Dorset, UK. Poundbury is Prince Charles’s attempt to create his architectural and planning masterpiece next to Dorchester. I used the excuse of being up with my new baby at 7am to go and take some photos of it to show you here.
What can I say, it’s not great (I’ve changed that sentence so many times to try and balance the architectural lack of ambition versus the worthy aims of such a project). It’s a mish mash of styles from different centuries, all added together. It’s a toy town, a museum of a mythical past. There is no soul, no heart, a perfect example of the need for difference, for organic spaces created over time.
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, Zaha Hadid Architects, 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
Frank Gehry, 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