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Charles at the RIBA: Speech could spur modernist planning approval

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Approval for modernist planning applications could peak following Prince Charles’ speech at RIBA on 12 May, according to the RIBA president

Sunand Prassad acknowledged the Prince had not changed his view on modern architectural practice; however, he had indirectly advocated a modern approach. ‘The last time [the Prince addressed RIBA], the whole planning system started to reject modern design. This time round I think the reverse will be the case. We can be confident that some of the lessons of earlier modernism have been learnt.

‘He hasn’t changed his view on a sweeping dislike of modernism, but if you use his argument for what is good, then it is interesting to note that comes from good, modern building.

‘He talked of organic architecture, responding to nature and how people engage with the built environment. It is clear modern buildings respond to that. The real test for us will be what non-architects – the planners, the consultants think of this episode.

‘Whether we have got anywhere will be seen by the speech’s impact on planning.

‘The speech was emollient, he wanted to build bridges while expressing his stylistic preferences, but he acknowledged a lot of modern architects share some of his values.’

According to Michael Manser, president at RIBA in 1984, when the Prince made his infamous ‘carbuncle’ speech, while the speech was conciliatory and his antipathy for modern architecture had mellowed, the entrenched views countering modern architecture will not be eradicated so soon.

‘Whether the event will make any impact on planning departments or their committees, I am not so sure. The culture of rejection is so deep and the quality of staff generally so inadequate, negative and underqualified, I don’t think they would know how to be otherwise. If they had, things would already be different and they could have led and informed their generally philistine committees. The combination of the two has had a truly destructive impact on post war development in Britain.

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