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Richard Rogers: Prince Charles 'single-handedly destroyed' Chelsea Barracks

Angry Rogers demands public inquiry over Prince’s intervention with Qatari royal family

In an aggressive interview with the Guardian today (16 June) Rogers said: ‘The prince does not debate and in a democracy that is unacceptable and in fact is non-constitutional. I think he pursues these topics because he is looking for a job and in that sense I sympathise with him. He is actually an unemployed individual, which says something about the state of the royal family. I don’t think he is evil per se, he is just misled.’

‘The prince always goes round the back to wield his influence, using phone calls or in the case of the Chelsea barracks, a private letter. It is an abuse of power because he is not willing to debate. He has made his representations two and a half years late and anyone but him would have been shown the door. We should examine some of the ethics of this situation. Someone who is unelected, will not debate but will use the power bestowed by his birth-right must be questioned.’

Rogers, a Labour peer in the House of Lords, has demanded a public inquiry over the Prince’s meddling in the Chelsea Barracks scheme: ‘This sort of situation is totally unconstitutional and should never happen again’.

On 12 June Rogers was effectively fired from the scheme when Qatari Diar, the client, withdrew the planning application for the development following mounting pressure from Prince Charles. The Prince had continually expressed his disdain for Rogers’ design and contacted the Qatari royal family directly to lobby for an alternate classicist proposal by Quinlain Terry.

‘When the Qataris took full control about nine months ago, I was told to keep out of the limelight and stay quiet. There was no major public relations strategy. It gave us the feeling they didn’t understand that this was a democratic process. The Qataris never sorted out the difference between royalty and government’.

Rogers said he was ‘very upset’ to be dropped from the project and claimed that after more than two years of work the Chelsea design was ‘one of the best schemes my office has ever produced‘.

‘Up to two months ago we were pretty convinced we were going to get our scheme through Westminster’s planning committee. We enjoyed some of the strongest support I have ever had from Westminster and the Greater London Authority, including the great report we had only last week from the planners, which is why I thought we were home and dry. I just don’t know what happened.’

This is not the first time that a Rogers scheme have been vetoed by the Prince. Rogers was the frontrunner to develop Paternoster Square beside St Paul’s Cathedral and the favourite to rebuild the Royal Opera House - both schemes were scupperred by the Prince. According to Rogers: ‘I was basically told: “the prince does not like you”.’

In a parting shot, Rogers took on the idea that Charles was expressing the resentment that local people felt towards the scheme: ‘The idea that he is a man of the people fascinates me,’ said Rogers, ‘he is a man of the rich people, that is for sure.’

Prince Charles gets his way: Chelsea Barracks scheme scrapped -
Read the AJ’s complete coverage

Readers' comments (6)

  • But the development was objected to by many other than Prince Charles. No doubt some of those wielded influence too. Rogers has had his day, and spoiled enough of London. He's a man unused to being said 'no' to. Writing a letter to express a view isn't 'unconstitutional'. A public inquiry into the withdrawal of a plan for a second rate, overcrowded development? Get a grip. Would it have made any difference if Charles had objected two and a half years' ago? No. He would have had the same accusations made. All the many, many objections by others were ignored. Planning isn't a democratic process.

    Planners? Few have to live with the consequences of their recommendations. In this case, far easier to say yes than rock the boat. Anyhow, planners are not working alone, there's usually all manner of pressure brought to bear.

    We don't often get the buildings we want, or need, we get the building developers and others can make the maximum cash from.

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  • In a democracy we wouldn't have modernist architecture foisted onto us by the profession . . . and to say that the Prince is a man of rich people is to ignore the good work that he does - for instance The Princes Trust. If Prince Charles was pro modern architecture, I doubt we'd be hearing these objections. The problem is that most modern architecture is machine like as Corb intended - traditional architecture is usually more human and more organic. That's why the general public usually like it.

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  • It wasn't simply the style of architecture which was bad, it was too high, too dense, and a far, far better scheme for the site could be developed. The 'style wars' are being made too much of.

    But the site owner paid a silly price, and in order to return a profit, crammed too much there.

    See (www)chelseabarracks.org.uk for the 'local' campaign (that's democracy, where is Lord Rogers complaining about that? Or are local objectors, so easily ignored, unimportant?).

    Read Marcus Binney, Times Dec 11th 2008, 'Not Another Barracks for Chelsea', press links from that site.

    The Deputy Mayor of London called this scheme 'nothing short of urban vandalism' and Roger's designs 'monstrous'. Is he wrong also?

    It could be so much better!

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  • Lord R is understandly disappointed at the loss of the (large fee earning) scheme, but as others have said, it was about so much more than classical vs. modernism and its oversimplifying in the extreme to paint it as such. Above all, I am amazed that so many of the elite in the architecture profession continue to be happy to overlook how their 'star' names also distort democracy by 'credentialising' schemes which would be thrown out at pre-planning if it had a 'nobody' architect behind it. Status and titles seem to be fine when it works in favour of our ennobled architecture classes, but something to be vitriolically abused when they don't get their way for once.

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  • To me the scheme proposed was flawed, and for Rogers to state it as 'one of the best schemes his office has ever produced' says little about the practice. Dare we go down the ethics route? To me it has been nothing more than a cash earning machine for which architectural merit couldn't take a further step lower in the priority lists.
    The scheme is overcrowded, dark and could any sense of community be any better or worse than any other high-rise, high populous housing scheme?
    The costs are ludicrous, thus demanding a high volume to make a profit. The results are as they are; what has been proposed and accepted by the planners is nothing short of scandalous for which an overcrowded and aesthetically, socially displeasing result would have been realised.
    That Prince Charles intervened was a good thing. How he went about it and his timing was and is undoubtedly questionable; however he got what many of us 'mere-mortals' wanted.
    Should there be an inquiry? Why? To settle RR's mind?
    RR just needs to face the fact that a majority did not approve. It happens. The prince was our voice on this one, and we should be grateful for that. RR needs to accept that not everyone thinks he is the be-all and end-all of architecture.
    Building design is an immensely personal thing, oft overlooked, not more so than when designing a high volume scheme such as this, and in such a prestigious a city such as London. Clearly one cannot force upon a community, but should adhere to a majority acceptance of such a design scheme?
    Regardless of taste, aesthetics, costs etc, the design was flawed and as architects our task is to appeal to both the client, vernacular, locale and future needs of such a scheme. You didn't RR. Move on.

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  • I have looked at the pictures of Quinlan Terry's work and it is ugly. Harsh brick surfaces, machine made 'classical' details, stiff pediments.....
    I have also looked at the photograph of Roger's planned apartments and was immediately struck by how close the blocks were, casting shadow on the adjacent ones. Also noticed the steel tubes and glass bric-a-brac, so unappealing and also, so ephemeral, at the roof line.
    As so often, its a question of two opposing arguments, both of little merit.
    The Prince of Wales has a sense of ownership (and he does own a lot of land) and in the past, the great dukes were very powerful.
    Set this against the contemporary commercial interests and what will emerge? What was the motivation of the investors - this must be scrutinised.
    Rogers invokes democracy in a surprising way - presumably because he is facing off against a prince. Otherwise, I doubt if he especially cares about democracy. He has his own buddy-circle and well, so does the prince.

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