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Top architects condemn Prince Charles meddling

A number of the world’s top architects have jointly-condemned the Prince of Wales for using ‘his privileged position’ to intervene in the design process for the Richard Rogers Chelsea Barracks scheme in London

In a letter to the Sunday Times, the architects, who include five winners of the Pritzker prize including Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster and Frank Gehry, criticise the Prince of Wales for trying to interfere with the democratic process by using his royal connections to stop modernist plans for the site.

It is also signed by Ricky Burdett, David Adjaye, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron and Renzo Piano.

The letter states: ‘It is essential in a modern democracy that private comments and behind-the-scenes lobbying by the prince should not be used to skew the course of an open and democratic planning process that is under way.’

The architects were moved to write the letter following reports that Prince Charles had written privately to Qatari Diyar – the development arm of the Qatar government and owners of the site. In the letter he is understood to recommend alternative plans by the classicist architect Quinlan Terry.

According to the Sunday Times, Prince Charles has already been successful in persuading the developer to consider having more traditional brick and stone buildings for the development, as opposed to the emphasis on glass and steel proposed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners planned.

Full text of the letter to the Sunday Times

THE Prince of Wales’s intervention over the design of the former Chelsea Barracks site deserves more reasoned comment. It is essential in a modern democracy that private comments and behind-the-scenes lobbying by the prince should not be used to skew the course of an open and democratic planning process that is under way.

Proposals by Richard Rogers’s practice for the developers Qatari Diar were recently submitted for planning to Westminster city council. The scheme has been adapted and changed in response to comments from Westminster’s planning officers and extensive local consultation. Statutory bodies such as the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the Greater London Authority have also been consulted. Westminster’s planning committee will meet and shortly deliver its verdict.

Its members should be left alone to decide whether the Rogers’s scheme is a fitting 21st-century addition to the fabric of London. The developers have chosen carefully in selecting the best architect for the sensitive project. Rogers and his team have played their part in engaging with the democratic process. The prince and his advisers should do the same. The process should be allowed to take its course; otherwise we risk condemning this critical site to years as an urban blight.

If the prince wants to comment on the design of this or any other project, we urge him to do so through the established planning consultation process. Rather than use his privileged position to intervene in one of the most significant residential projects likely to be built in London in the next five years, he should engage in an open and transparent debate.

Lord Foster, Foster and Partners, London, Pritzker Prize 1999
Zaha Hadid, Zaha Hadid Architects, London, Pritzker Prize 2004
Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Pritzker Prize 2001
Jean Nouvel, Jean Nouvel Architectes, Paris, Pritzker Prize 2008
Renzo Piano, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genoa, Pritzker Prize 1998
Frank Gehry, Gehry Partners, Los Angeles, Pritzker Prize 1989
Sir Nicholas Serota, Commissioner, CABE 1999-2006
Richard Burdett, London School of Economics
David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates, London
Deyan Sudjic, Director, Design Museum, London

Readers' comments (4)

  • Spoiled "starchitects" protesting because someone with a genuine architectural conscience has challenged one of their own not to mess up historic London. This reaction comes from always having a free hand to do whatever they wish, regardless of the often disastrous consequences. Yes, I do sympathize, this turn of events surprised many whose careers are built upon the promotion of tired futuristic images that in many cases turn out to be out-of-place. But unfortunately those individuals have always offered the same formulaic high-tech typologies that ignore context and human scale, notwithstanding all the media hype. This glass and steel stuff is truly boring, not innovative; it may have been exciting back in 1920 but it is now as dated as the Model T Ford. The crocodile tears about process belie the exclusion of any humanistic, traditional, and truly innovative architects from major contracts, awards, and architecture prizes, which are won only by a small handful of "starchitects".

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  • The democratic institutions are very much in place
    and as such ,it is always healthy the be in the game
    and express ones views,why all this behind the
    scene schemes even at top knotches of public developements by people in high society.

    Public concience will never go down altogether on events in a free society ,how mighty the position may be-history has shown again and again the
    fact for all to see for themselves.

    no event can be beyond public debate.

    ramesh prasad. Bangalore.India

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  • Hooray for the Prince of Wales, I say, and I agree with Nikos Salingaros's comments here too. Rogers's scheme is yet another egocentric architect's idea stamping how THEY think a residential scheme should be built therefore telling us "how to live" and what we should exist in.
    I wouldn't exactly say that Rogers is a particularly user-friendly residential architect - His scheme for Paddington basin is just hideous and will look dated in a very short space of time, and words cannot describe the unforgivable awfulness of the Montevetro buidling in Battersea ( right next door to the beautiful 19C Joseph Nixon Church, St Mary's).
    I don't think any of the named architect's have had any residential building built - in LONDON - recently, if at all...

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  • The above comments all miss the point.
    The point is, that we live in a democracy and therefore everyone has their right to speak their point but we should all do so in a public debate rather than in private. I does not matter whether or not you like the Rogers design- We all have a time and place to raise concerns with the planning committee and that time and place should be used.

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