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Prince Charles says he will not ‘meddle’ in architecture once king

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  • 4 Comments

The Prince of Wales has said he will stop ‘meddling’ in architectural issues when he becomes king, according to a new BBC documentary to mark his 70th birthday

In the programme Charles, who has often been criticised by the profession for his views on Classicism and his influence on the property sector, said once he became monarch he would operate within ’constitutional parameters’ and row back from his public campaigning.

In architectural terms, the Prince is best known for his open attack on Modernism at the RIBA’s 150th-anniversary celebration at Hampton Court Palace in 1984. There he unexpectedly slammed ABK’s proposed extension to the National Gallery as ‘a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend’. The scheme was later scrapped.


Three years later, at the Corporation of London planning and communication committee’s annual dinner at Mansion House, he said: ’You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe, when it knocked down our buildings, it did not replace them with anything more offensive than rubble.’

In 2009 Richard Rogers blamed the prince for getting him booted off the Chelsea Barracks project. He told the Guardian: ’We had hoped that Prince Charles had retreated from his position on modern architecture, but he single-handedly destroyed this project.’ Rogers claimed it was the third time the future king had scuppered one of his schemes, claiming Charles had also had a hand in the demise of his designs for Paternoster Square and the Royal Opera House.

In the programme, which will be shown tonight (8 November) on BBC One at 9pm, Prince Charles said the notion that he would continue campaigning and making interventions once king was ‘nonsense’. He added he was ‘not that stupid’.

During the documentary Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70, he was asked about his ‘meddling’ in politics and wider issues such as the environment, but he told filmmaker John Bridcut he had always tried to remain ‘non-party political’.

But he added: ‘If it’s meddling to worry about the inner cities as I did 40 years ago, then if that’s meddling I’m proud of it.’

In the programme, which was filmed over a 12-month period, Prince Charles acknowledged that his role would have to change once he became monarch. He said: ‘I think it’s vital to remember there’s only room for one sovereign at a time, not two.

‘So, you can’t be the same as the sovereign if you’re the Prince of Wales or the heir.

‘But the idea, somehow, that I’m going to go on in exactly the same way if I have to succeed, is complete nonsense because the two – the two situations – are completely different.’

He added: ‘I do realise that it is a separate exercise being sovereign. So of course I understand entirely how that should operate.’ 

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • Well, there are clearly lots of issues here, but Prince Charles clearly understood the sensitive and historic context of an extension to the National Gallery, and the need for a humble extension rather than a statement piece.
    In a YouGov survey in 2009, 77% of respondees preferred traditional architecture over contemporary designs.
    It's interesting that the author only gives Richard Rogers' viewpoint:
    RHSP's works have by-and-large been for large wealthy corporate clients, and so by only presenting this 'elitist' viewpoint, the author of this article would appear to be dis-interested in the views of ordinary people.
    But then, if the author had presented a balanced view, it would have shown that, actually, Prince Charles is more in-touch with the public perception of architecture than many in the profession itself, and, in the inimitable words of The Fat Controller, "That would never do."

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  • What we learnt from Las Vegas was that one form of architecture could be a 'decorated shed', and we certainly got that with the National Gallery extension. Whether the 'decoration' is appropriate or not is a question, in my opinion not.

    But the internal planning is neither classical nor modern, but one of the least controlled interior spaces I know by so-called Starchitects.
    Certainly no lesson had been learnt from either Aalto or Scharoun about how to plan large public buildings.

    It does not help to say that the public say the prefer 'traditional architecture' "whatever that means". For example on Open City weekend, all the best modern buildings have long queues or are booked out. Show people fine modern buildings, and they may prefer them.

    Prince Charles is less in touch with public perception of architecture than the opinions of his cronies and those who hang on in the hopes of picking up a nice project by the back door.

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  • Will the Prince really stop interfering in areas where he knows so little after he becomes King? Like many of his subjects he has never had an architectural education. High Grove is nice, and he has the most useful qualification for a client: Pots of money. He does like the Mound Stand at Lord’s, so he has some valid opinions. The National Gallery though was an utter shambles.

    He is more informed about the natural environment, gardening and global warming, so he might perform a useful role there. And it will be the most important issue during the next 10 years and beyond?

    Like all of us he has made mistakes, and is aging at the same pace. He lucked out eventually with Camilla and the boys, not to mention their wives and his grandchildren.

    Happy birthday mate. Look after Windsor, and bugger Bognor?!

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  • Phil Parker

    Charles is a serial back room manipulator of events who has no qualms whatsoever about forcing his his view upon others. Passive-aggressive, school bully, call it what you like.

    If had any dignity he’d step aside and allow current generation to to take over. William is more than ready.

    As for the comments above- it’s the same old same. Charles is bolstered by apologists like Butterfield and the old elitist caravan drives on.

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