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Flashback: A reader responds to Prince Charles at the RIBA

A letter to the AJ from 1984 tackles Prince Charles’ ‘monstrous carbuncle’ speech to the RIBA. The prince returns to lecture the RIBA tonight (May 12)

From Guillermo Gil, DipArch, RIBA

AJ 06.06.1984

After the Hampton Court fiasco and yet another round of ‘Kill an architect’ features in the national press, it would be useful to have answers to some questions. First, who decided, and on what grounds, that the Prince of Wales was the best guest to have at an event that was supposed to be the pinnacle of the Festival of Architecture.

From past speeches it is no secret that the prince’s views, at best, are those of a Whig landowner in 1760; at their worst, they closely match those of a Surrey vicar’s wife. Further to this, a look at the background of those photographs of family life in Kensington Palace reveals a design taste firmly anchored in Peter Jones. Why such views and design criteria were considered of interest or relevance to the profession is a baffling mystery. I hope that by now Michael Manser regrets not having asked the Duke of Gloucester.

I do not mind my RIBA membership fee being used to subsidise such occasions, but I mind it very much when it is used for events that only benefit Quinlan Terry and others in architectural mothballs.

Second, and more important, as far as can be gathered from the press reports, nobody rose from that table and left as soon as the prince started airing his inane views both on architecture in general and on specific schemes at present going through public enquiries. By just sitting there while this took place the RIBA leaders and the members present have condoned and tacitly given approval to opinions that were both unjustified and untrue.

Coming from the Prince of Wales, these opinions were bound to receive maximum coverage. Having seen the damage this has caused to the image of architecture and the profession in the public’s eye, I must ask, what price politeness?

Prince Charles at the RIBA: news and opinion

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