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Prince Charles' RIBA speech: First reaction

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Architects present at Prince Charles’ RIBA lecture give their opinion on his performance

Simon Allford, co-founder Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
‘Setting aside the Prince’s habitually conservative, quasi spiritual/philosophical tone it was all very cosy…except the Prince still fails to appreciate that the richest evolving tradition is the hundred and fifty year old pursuit of a modern architecture which, at its best, continues to serve and delight his future subjects.

Chris Roche of 11.04 Architects
‘The evening was remarkably anti-climatic, and whilst it was no love-in, neither was it the fight of the century, that had been widely anticipated.No blood was spilt, nor punches thrown, not even a handbag. Simply polite posturing, and a shared desire to bury the hatchets. The RIBA won on points, but it was uninspiring, and a re-match doesn’t look to be on the cards.’

Robert Jamison, of Robert Jamison Architects, runner-up in the AJ/Urban Splash Infobox contest
‘The idea of a boycott by Alsop and the like was kind of pointless - I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The Prince spoke about a new sensibility towards architecture and creating appropriate architecture. I connected with that – it’s how I approach my work, looking at the meaning, purpose and place. I’m not sure what the critics will make of it but he said a number of things [about the profession] that needed to be said. It was a heart-warming speech for me’

Richard Steer, a senior partner at lecture sponsor Gleeds
‘Everyone was talking about Chelsea Barracks and it was what everyone expected him to mention it. But he was criticised last time he was there for being too specific so he deliberately steered away from it. Instead of saying Chelsea Barracks is rubbish, he spoke in generalised terms about subjects such as nature and Islamic art. However everybody enjoyed it. It was a very conciliatory speech.

John McRae, a director at ORMS
‘The fact that Prince Charles alienates himself by declaring Modernism is not his style is a shame because he was asking some very valid questions. As he says, we don’t need any more arrogance or egos and his focus on bottom-up design is very relevant. Now is a chance for us, a a profession, to take a step back and ask are designing for the right purposes - for the place rather than the time. His message was very timely. Either he was regurgitating what he said 25 years ago or he is pure genius.

Roger Zogolovtich, developer and RIBA Trust Board member
‘The Prince could do so much for architecture; his belief, authority and position places him perfectly poised in the role of Patron, but sadly he still seems to  find it difficult to engage with the current architectural debate.
As the speech unfolded, I wondered if he had realized that in the 25 years since his last speech, the built form has itself become transformed. Whilst Will Alsop had absented himself, strangely the natural forms of his buildings, like Richard Roger’s Barajas Airport, or Ted Cullinan’s gridshell all represent their form organically derived from nature. [Yet] his critique of ‘brutal destruction’ and ‘depersonalised and defaced’ townscape is shared by many of us in the worst bits of our built environment that surrounds us everywhere every day.’

Jonathan Glancey in the Guardian
‘It was really business as usual with the heir to the throne championing the cause of traditional architecture and society. Yes, he and the RIBA might agree on matters of sustainability, and will work together on these in the future, yet at heart there remains as gap as wide as the portico of the west front of St Paul’s Cathedral.’

Kieran Long, editor in-chief, The Architects’ Journal, via Twitter
‘Prince C was charming, but his 20th century history is defective. Did architects invent global capital and the military industrial complex?’

Amanda Baillieu, editor, Building Design, via Twitter
‘he said the word bling - buildings with wind turbines . he is baffeled a lot of the time . poor lamb…now quoting Betjamin - oh yawn… sunand now responding. i need a drink’

Neal Charlton of Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams
‘I thought it was inspirational. It’s interesting the way he ties traditional aspects to sustainability. It’s an olive branch, a way forward on reducing emissions and all those key things.

Daniel Moylan, deputy leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council, speaking to BD
‘In a sense, the speech was an invitation to buy into a particular religious view of the world – a naturalistic religion that is part of the natural order and that, if contravened, would go horribly wrong. Some of its assertions you can agree with but some of them are debatable. There was an attempt to make love to the RIBA, a clumsy fumbling which I thought the Prince did rather well on. While some of it was a tiny bit barbed, the prospect of cooperation must be welcomed by everyone.’

Andrew Ellis, architect
‘I wasn’t overly impressed’


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Readers' comments (1)

  • James Awosina

    I think it is wise for architects to listen and ponder over these important issues raised by the prince and other well-meaning critics. We need to shed off our pride, look inward and be sane in our design considerations. The long-range interest of of the built environment and our clients must usurp the place of ego and sensationalism in design.

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