News that the Prince's Foundation, now based in trendy Shoreditch, is to give up running its foundation course is a sad coda to the saga of royal involvement with architecture which began on that fateful night at Hampton Court in 1984.You have to hand it to Prince Charles: he put an enormous amount of energy and (other people's) money into running an alternative architectural education system to that offered by the RIBA Modernists. The problem was that, in the absence of a fundamental commitment to Classicism - the dream of princely mentor Leon Krier - or possibly to conservation, the organisation lacked a guiding philosophy. The turnover of people prepared to devote themselves to the cause seemed extraordinary. Those who sup with the prince rarely do so for very long. Rod Hackney, Colin Amery, Jules Lubbock, Charles Knevitt, Richard Hodges, Adrian Gale, David Porter - the list of those who have retired hurt is endless. Some blame the hothouse atmosphere of the institution, formerly based in Regent's Park, while others note the way in which teachers and directors can never penetrate the intimacy of the prince's relationship with the royal aide currently in favour. And those aides always resent the potential closeness that a director of architecture might achieve, seeing it as their job to keep the future king free of harmful influences. It is not long since things all looked so different, with a RIBA visit to the school, and the possibility of recognition on the horizon. Alas, the princely spin team went walkabout, announcing that the RIBA had given them the all-clear.
In fact, under the chairmanship of Paul Hyett, now RIBA president, the visiting board had done no such thing. After that it was downhill all the way. Not all schools of architecture will be cheered by the failure of the course, however. One Bartlett contact tells Astragal: 'All our best students came from there!'