Is Prince Charles right to weigh in on architecture?

August 18, 2009

Prince Charles is facing renewed criticism over his involvement in architectural planning after recent reports that he attempted to influence projects in London and Swindon.

The prince tried to have French architect Jean Nouvel removed from a 500 million pound office and shopping project next to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Guardian said in an investigative report.

The prince is alleged to have written to Land Securities in 2005 when they selected Nouvel to suggest a meeting with his preferred architects, according to the newspaper.

The National Trust was warned that the Prince might withdraw his patronage of the organization unless the design of a new building in Swindon suited his taste, the investigation revealed.

Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, called for public scrutiny of the prince’s correspondence.

“The public have a right to know the full extent of Charles’s meddling,” spokesman Graham Smith told the Guardian. “We need to know if decisions are being made according to what the public wants and needs or according to what Prince Charles wants.”

Earlier this year, plans for luxury flats on the site of Chelsea Barracks were withdrawn after the prince wrote to the chairman of developers Qatari Diar asking for a re-consideration of the modern design.

Does Prince Charles’ involvement overstep the bounds of propriety given his position of privilege as heir to the throne? Is he right to weigh in on architecture and design?


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It is an abuse of his privilege.

Posted by Susan Frenwich | Report as abusive

I believe that he is overstepping and using his birth previledge to meddle. These are projects that serve, thousands,maybe millions of people.
How can a single person dictate that they be made according to his taste.
I believe that, the prince is being a little selfish.

Posted by Sydney | Report as abusive

Since when has someone in the Prince’s extraordinarily privileged position been best placed to judge what’s right, or otherwise, concerning good design in twenty first century Britain? Afterall, if he had his way we’d all be living in stone buildings, designed by classically-trained architects.

Of course population size, costs and constrained resources make this impossible – but, importantly, technology and modern materials enable fantastic, extraordinary and beautiful things to be built today. (Oddly, although the great architects of the past used the technology and materials of their day to build incredible things, the Prince never seems to get this in the modern context).

Pastiche is what happens when the Prince meddles. The extension to the National Gallery being the finest example: a ridiculous bolt-on to an otherwise handsome building. Compare that to Chipperfield’s stunning, sensitive and – shock – contemporary renovation of Berlin’s Neues Museum.

Unfortunately, the Prince’s track record suggests that he is unable to differentiate between good contemporary design and bad; to him, ‘good’ simply equates to classical and ‘bad’ to modern. And there lies the issue.

Posted by ADL | Report as abusive

If he is saving us from the horrors of yet another glass and steel tower then he is doing a great public service.

Posted by Suzanne | Report as abusive

Every individual has a right to comment. It is up to the planners to review all comments. If they choose to give more weight to Prince Charles’s views that is up to them.

For me, I agree with his taste, or at least his distaste for certain types of incongruous development. At least it opens the debate on what should be built.

Posted by Seth | Report as abusive

I am absolutely delighted someone is able to get through to these overbearingly pompous architects and city planners: some of the repulsive effigies they have allowed to be erected are beyond belief. Indeed many so-called plans for our cities manifest as though they were designed by illiterate and ill-informed kids. Prince Charles is correct in airing his views, and he is so entitled to express them just like everyone else! Why is it in UK these days that people just don’t seem to have the resilience to cope with criticism any more? Someone doesn’t like anothers’ views, and instead of sensible discussion, they try to totally suppress the other points of view. This seems needlessly vindictive at best and somewhat puerile. I am thinking of that reaction from the uppity little architect being told to go and re-think plans for Chelsea Barracks. He didn’t like being told what the majority of people wanted – I was revelling in his discomfort – more of these pious people should be brought to book in this manner: another section of our society arguably over-rewarded for under-talented abilities… Instead of yelling for the public to know if Prince Charles has influenced decisions on planning, we should all be clamouring for our own say in these matters! Planning is far too important to be left to mere architects and planners alone – what happens affects generations for a very long time so we have every right to be interested and make our views known to a wide audience!

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

England does not seem to appreciate how lucky it is to have a person with taste and standing like the Prince of Wales to defend the beauty of London’s clasical arquitecture. The prince is right to voice his opinion. If I could protect the surroundings of St. Paul’s Catedral from more glass and steel structures I would do it but I do not have the weight of the Prince of Wales to promote a debate. I say to him: well done and carry on.

Posted by Virginia Shoppee | Report as abusive

Prince Charles has one point of view – it is only one- and should not ever be the one most listened to = but only one view among many to be taken into consideration. One example of a building he certainly would not have approved of – and which has enhanced the Louvre – is the modernistic glass pyramid – brilliant –
Some new designs placed side by side with older architecture gives the buildings of the past new life – and so an area of a city is given a special glow.

Posted by Constance Blackwell | Report as abusive

I think Prince Charles has the right as a British citizen to comment on it; is Britain a democracy or not? Some call it meddling, I call it a democratic right. Prince Charles was born in Britain, that makes him a British citizen. The last time I checked, Britain was a democracy. If it is, then he has a right to voice his opinion just like everybody expressing their’s; fair is fair. You don’t have to agree with someone’s opinions; but that’s what make us a democracy. You can agree to disagree. But the fact is, the prince was responding to a number of letters he received in his office, I think it was over 400 letters from the concerned citizens in the Chelsea area voicing their opinion against the project design; I have worked with Architects for many years, and I don’t mind saying some do not like criticism of their work; they take it very personal. That’s why they are all responding the way they are. But they also have a right to voice their opinion. But I think they all need to go back to the drawing table, come up with a design that everybody can live it; it should never be one sided; the public does have a right to voice opinions on what is being built in their neighborhoods; Architects are not the best judges for that; I should know I work with them all day. There are alot of great architects out there, I think they need to see several different designs from several different architects, not just a few. You would be surprised what kind of wonderful work you can see. Unfortunately, alot of politics plays in Architecture, and most architectural designs go unnoticed. But give the project time; things happen for a reason; it will happen, just don’t rush it. Hopefully, all the players including the public can come together and approve a design that everybody can be happy with, but the public should be involved, and if it takes Prince Charles to see that their opinions are represented, then that’s a good thing. I know for a fact, the public’s voice on these matters are gone unnoticed and are not considered in the board room when they start planning these projects; it does sometimes take someone like Prince Charles, who has the connections and yes, privileges, to voice those concerns, otherwise, the people behind the scenes on these projects, will do what they want, when they want. I see this happen everyday. Everyone has a voice and should be heard.

Posted by Melissa | Report as abusive

His Royal Highness Price Charles is most certainly right to complain, in his own right, and in our name, about awful architecture being planned, and often constructed, in our country.

Normal people virtually all feel the same as he does about such eyesores, but they lack the clout that H.R.H. has.

I found everything that H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh said, however open and honest, to be spot on; and H.R.H. Prins Charles seems to be carrying on the good work.
I say sincerely; thank you Sir!

Greg Hiller, Mierlo, The Netherlands.

Posted by Greg Hiller | Report as abusive