Prince Charles Defends Opposition to Modern Architecture

LONDON ~ Britain’s Prince Charles sought this week to patch up a long-running row with architects over his traditionalist views on building design – even as he dismissed the modern approach as “flawed.”

The prince’s interventions on architecture have put him at odds with many in the profession, and most recently he has come up against Qatar’s leaders over a design for a new building in London.

In a speech to the Royal Institute of British Architects on Tuesday, he apologised for a row caused during his address there 25 years ago when he described plans for an extension to the National Gallery in London as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”

He insisted the remarks were not intended to “kick-start some kind of ‘style war’ between Classicists and Modernists” or “to drag the world back to the eighteenth century”, but to make “room” for traditionalists.

However, the heir to the British throne threatened to immediately reignite the row as he warned there was “a surfeit of abstracted ideology over the practical realities linked to people’s lives” in current architecture practice.

“Let me point out that I don’t go around criticising other people’s private artworks. I may not like some of them very much, but it is their business what they choose to put in their houses,” Charles said.

“However, as I have said before, architecture and the built environment affect us all.”

The prince added that many architects who favoured modern designs were living in classical homes.

“Surely architects flock in such numbers to live in these lovely old houses… because, deep down, they do respond to the natural patterns and rhythms I have been talking about, and feel more comfortable in such harmonious surroundings.”

Charles ruffled some architects’ feathers recently by urging Qatar’s leaders to rethink a modern design for a landmark London building, the Chelsea Barracks.

Instead of a glass-and-steel design by renowned architect Richard Rogers, Charles suggested a classical plan made from bricks, stone and slate, mirroring the Sir Christopher Wren-designed Royal Hospital across the road.

A small group of architects had called for Charles’ speech to be boycotted.

“The prince’s latest move displays the destructive signs of his earlier interventions, when he set out to scupper modern architecture,” said a letter by a group of nine architects to the Guardian newspaper at the weekend.

“This intervention must now be resisted by the profession; not because of the question of architectural style, but because his actions again threaten an important element of our democratic process,” it added.

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