Prince Charles In New Row With Architects

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 104 months ago
Prince Charles In New Row With Architects

1808_stpauls.jpg
Image by kenchie
It has emerged that Prince Charles' intervention over the Chelsea Barracks plan wasn't the only recent example of the Royal boot trying to crush an unfavoured project underfoot. In 2005, the Prince made a concerted but unsuccessful attempt to stub out a major office and retail development near St Paul's Cathedral.

One New Change, an 87,000sq m project designed by Jean Nouvel due to open next year, was the subject of a letter written to developer Land Securities, in which the Prince complained about the appointment of the French-born Pritzker-prize winner for such a "sensitive site". He offered instead his own advisors, who would allow St Paul's to "shine bright", as if Nouvel had proposed spray-painting the cathedral black and shielding it behind a dark scrim. The letter was, however, ignored, and the development went ahead as planned.

According to one insider, the Prince hadn't even troubled himself to glance at the plans: the mere mention of Nouvel, a modernist architect, was enough for the royal quill to issue forth the polite form of a cease-and-desist order. Fortunately for Land Securities, the letter did not benefit from the oxygen of publicity that earlier this year led the plan by Richard Rogers' firm at Chelsea Barracks to be abandoned. The fate of that project offers a glimpse of what may have been at New Change: a group of classically-minded architects, allied to the Prince, have emerged as the frontrunners, and will set forth their royal benefactor's outdated view that new buildings should look the contemporary of their neighbours. Those unfamiliar with the ideal urban setting envisaged by our future King need only visit the Stepford scenery of Poundbury, which is already crumbling and crime-ridden.

The danger to the profession posed by these demotic and wholly undemocratic clandestine maneuverings is clear, particularly in a time of recession: why should firms spend time and money on a bid that, even if successful, risks being capsized at the whim of an unelected dilettante incapable of seeing that his quirk of birth no longer bequeaths the rule of the land? At the risk of hyperbole, one might paraphrase George Orwell: if you want a picture of the future of London, imagine a Royal boot stamping on an architect's face — for ever.

Last Updated 18 August 2009

diaphon2

I'm encouraged that someone like the Prince is willing to argue for beauty in a city where money trumps everything.

I don't like the faked-up mess that is Poundbury, but I don't like a lot of council houses or office blocks either. And the sustainable development of Poundbury is much less likely to cause lasting devastation than the concrete and steel monstrosities that most developers would like to put up in London.

Take the long view, DeanN. When the "One New Change" complex loses its tenants and stands empty and derelict (the eventual fate of almost every retail-office complex), will we be glad for its contribution to the cityscape? How can a building of that size and design collapse gracefully back into dust when its purpose has been served?

The Prince is taking the long view, while the developers and businessmen are looking for a fast profit. I don't like the Prince's vision or his tactics, but I'm glad someone is thinking about the future.

John B
When the "One New Change" complex loses its tenants and stands empty and derelict (the eventual fate of almost every retail-office complex), will we be glad for its contribution to the cityscape? How can a building of that size and design collapse gracefully back into dust when its purpose has been served?

Say what? I'm struggling to think of *any* retail/office complexes in central London that are standing empty and derelict, aside from ones that are undergoing demolition as part of bigger schemes (which, obviously, is the answer to your question about what happens when the building's purpose has been served).

mralistair

whilst i'm no massive fan of the nouvel scheme, the princes involvement is terrible.

Poundbury is a mess, Describing it as sustainable is a joke, it's a noddy village.

Kingpin

The Prince's intervention is worth it, we are better off without that horrible rubbish they were proposing near Chelsea Barracks, and we would be better off without this.

"Modern" doesn't naturally equate "good".

TokyoTuds

Ummm, Nouvel is not a modern(ist) architect. Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies Van Der Rohe are good examples of modernist architects who practised mainly 1920 to 1970.

bea

While I understand Prince Charles' preferred architectural style, I think that without a chance for growth or change in architecture, we'd just end up with a bunch of fake styled Victorian buildings over and over again, to the point that London would be a parody of itself. You wouldn't be able to tell the authentic from the fake 100 years from now.

Having personally visited the One New Change site, it isn't anything like typical large commercial buildings which tend to be slightly mundane, or vulgar as the case may be.

It's a short distance to walk from end to end---it is able to fit in a large amount of space, yet not feel cavernous or feel like you'll be walking for days. Plus, almost all of the building has a stunning view of St. Paul's, which did not exist before.

Plus wouldn't a neo-Victorian copy next to the grandness of St. Paul's just be in bad taste?

jamesup

He continues to intervene in a modern world he neither understands nor is a part of. We have a planning process, set by laws, enacted by our parliament, elected by the people. That's the way to deal with things, not snide letters to developers indicating his displeasure. 

The sad thing is the Princes Foundation for the Build Environment does exactly that, but he undermines himself but taking this sort of unilateral action. He could learn so much from his mother...