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Prince set for New Year offensive

Prince Charles looks set to become more vocal about architecture, a move bound to open old wounds and court fresh controversy.Architectural advisor to the prince David Lunts said he expected HRH to raise his profile in the year to come.

Initiatives could include the introduction of a controversial 'anti-awards' scheme in which the Prince points the finger at five of his most hated buildings, Lunts said. He could also publish a guide to the best of contemporary design.

The news follows the controversy surrounding HRH's speech last week in which he criticised tall buildings, and the announcement in November that he is to act as design champion for the NHS (AJ 22.11.01).

As director of the Princes' Foundation, Lunts is responsible for implementing HRH's architectural vision. While the foundation has been quiet about its activities to date, Lunts expects this to change. 'There are a lot of things [the Prince] wants to say, ' he said.

The foundation plans to turn its attention closer to home, to the development of the City of London, which Lunts describes as 'the wild west frontier' - where parcels of land are grabbed for private self-interest. The prince's speech on tall buildings, which coincided with the Heron Tower inquiry, suggests this may be one area of concern.

But with the Prince's clear dislike of modern architecture, he can expect resistance from architects to a new role as self-styled design guru.

Piers Gough declared he was 'not a fan' of the royal. 'He doesn't seem to be very interested in culture. He doesn't seem to be very interested in the world going forward. He wants to go backward.'

Gough said the 'anti-awards' would be a perfect summing up of the Prince's negative attitude. He predicted the prizes would not go to truly bad buildings because they lacked profile. 'They won't give it to some terrible Travelodge - they'll give it to the GLA building to annoy people.'

CABE commissioner Stephen King said that, for the Prince to have a positive impact, he will have to 'choose his words carefully'. 'If Prince Charles does want a real change in quality in the built environment, he is going to have to work with professions that will deliver that. There has to be debate, not a stifling of debate.'

Michael Manser, who held the RIBA presidency during the 'carbuncle years', 1983-85, said he doubted whether anyone took the Prince seriously. 'He does us good. He's so palpably over the top it's funny.' And he predicted: 'The more engaged he gets, the more out of touch he'll appear.'

But RIBA president Paul Hyett welcomed a stepping up of the Prince's involvement. 'He has much to contribute. He is frequently misunderstood and misrepresented.We should concentrate on what he does say and respond to that. There will be issues where we disagree but let us not disagree where we don't have to.'

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