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Katherine Shonfield

Prince Charles asserts that the world's great religions have at their heart an environmental ethic. It might be a headache for him, therefore, that the USA, where around 40 per cent of the population attend a religious gathering at least once a month, is probably the most messianic perpetrator of environmental pollution on the planet.

There is, however, something perversely gratifying for an architect at the sight of another profession scuttling after Prince Charles' pro-sustainablity broadside. The comparison by an eminent scientist of Charles to a Dalek shows how his accusations have hit home.

The prince is absolutely right in this.The problem for all of us nowadays, scientists, and architects included, is that the application of good/bad rules based on detached observation, no longer carries credence. It is no coincidence that social science has been virtually dropped from the architectural curriculum of mainstream universities in the UK and USA, over the past 20 odd years, about the same timescale since Prince Charles first articulated mass public disaffection with architecture.

For me, the problem in the prince's own thinking - for example, that religious thought is opposed to modern science, which is responsible for a general lack of holistic understanding - is that this is a fine example of the simple 'scientific' rule he so condemns.

One of the lessons of Poundbury - the prince's own model urban development, built in Dorset - is that formal rules are not enough. Richard Rogers, writing in this week's Observer , questions its construction and energy technology, its lack of social mix, public transport system and use of brownfield land.

Like conventional religion, traditional urban forms pay easy lip service to what a sustainable world might be like. The reality is more profound and complex.

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