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Prince Charles in fresh call for 'timeless' London architecture

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The AJ reproduces extracts of a recent speech by the Prince of Wales on how squares and mid-rise mansion blocks can solve the capital’s housing crisis

Ladies and gentlemen, I am most touched and, indeed, surprised, that the Evening Standard should have decided to give me the award of Londoner of the Decade. I have to confess I am not entirely sure whether to be pleased or alarmed. Perhaps I am losing my touch when such eminent newspapers start giving me achievement awards! So I set to wondering what this achievement might have been?

As I suppose I have spent most of my life trying to propose and initiate things that very few people could see the point of or, frankly, thought were plain bonkers at the time, perhaps some of them are now beginning to recognise a spot of pioneering in all this apparent madness? All forms of pioneering have moments that make you hold your breath and cross your fingers…

When it comes to pioneering, I would very much like to thank the Standard for recognising the work of my Foundation for Building Community. I am afraid the headlines of some publications have not always reflected what I actually think – and what I actually say – about the way we plan and design urban environments. In fact, what I think is pretty straightforward.  The point is simply this, that I believe it pays enormous social and environmental dividends if you go to the trouble of involving local people, with the right professional facilitators, in the design of the places where they live.  

This is precisely what my foundation has been doing, so far involving around 8,000 people in the design of over 100 projects. It has also trained a generation of architects, masterplanners and ’placemakers’ and worked on a huge array of projects that range in scale from new towns and university campuses to individual buildings like the recently opened Alder Hey Children’s Hospital – many of these projects, by the way, create hundreds if not thousands of jobs in the process. 

The most successful communities mix the private with affordable housing

Understanding what people would prefer to live amongst; caring as much about the public spaces as the private ones; creating human-scale places where there are no ’zones’ is a critical component in a very urgent issue. By 2050, London’s population is set to balloon from 8.5 million to as many as 11 million, but we do have to think now about how best we manage that growth – not only how we house many more people, but how we design urban environments that enable communities to thrive. Hence, my foundation’s emphasis on building mid-rise mansion blocks – and on rediscovering the timeless value of squares and terraces.

The most successful communities mix the private with affordable housing; enclose green spaces within squares and communal gardens; provide good quality housing integrated with walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods; good public transport and an identity that fosters pride and a sense of belonging. It is these qualities, ladies and gentlemen, which attract so many people to London and, time and again, this is the sort of development that various surveys reveal is what many people would prefer to see. A recent Ipsos MORI poll revealed that around 60 per cent of Londoners surveyed think that the trend towards skyscrapers has gone too far.  

Ladies and gentlemen, on that note, I am enormously grateful to Sarah Sands and her team at the Evening Standard, for your kindness - perhaps rashness - in recognizing some of my seemingly rather rash, pioneering efforts from all those years ago. 

The Prince of Wales was speaking at the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 Awards on 7 September, at which he was declared Londoner of the Decade

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Charles Pigott

    The problem with the housing crisis is not housing. The crisis is about finding work to support housing. A timeless model would be similar to Port Sunlight, but how things have changed. We are lured to the city and entrapped by a corporate ethic that can not support its workforce. Much as we search for a new paradigm we must seek a new building typology that can develop the urban symbiosis of Port Sunlight to allow workers to coexist with their workplace; destroy the commute and restore a semblance of sanity to the pressure of extended work hours. For the corporation to provide housing support would mean a reduced income for the employee but outweighed by the use of a residence, and both sides would have a tax advantage and the concept of enabling a stable working business community that would enrich the city, especially at the weekends; timeless indeed!

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  • The Prince's remarks ring somewhat hollow (to put it politely) in the context of the underwhelming progress, reported in these pages, of his Scottish small-town, and supposedly part-affordable, pastiche initiative at Cumnock.

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