Building a greener future, by Royal Appointment
For concrete expression of the Prince’s philosophy we need only look to his keen and much publicised interest in architecture.
This publicity really began with the Prince’s now famous dismissal of new designs for Trafalgar Square in 1984 as “like a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.” This single sentence has been credited with helping to alter the course of architectural development in the UK.
Its basis and justification, expressed in the same speech, is heartfelt and relatively straightforward.
“For far too long, it seems to me, some planners and architects have consistently ignored the feelings and wishes of the mass of ordinary people in this country. What I believe is important about community architecture is that it has shown ‘ordinary’ people that their views are worth having; that architects and planners do not necessarily have the monopoly of knowing best about taste, style and planning; that they need not be made to feel guilty or ignorant if their natural preference is for the more ‘traditional’ designs: for a small garden, for courtyards, arches and porches; and that there is a growing number of architects prepared to listen and to offer imaginative ideas.”
In 1987 his outspoken views became the subject of a book and television documentary. Entitled A Vision of Britain: a Personal View of Architecture, it consisted mainly of a tour of the UK, pointing out new buildings and developments he despised. Some of the designs he criticised were scrapped or amended, while elsewhere his views were politely ignored, or not so politely ridiculed.
His response has been unrepentant: “The professionals have been doing it their way,
“...like a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”
Prince Charles on Trafalgar Square designs
thanks to the planning legislation, for the last 40 years. We, poor mortals, are forced to live in the shadow of their achievements. Everywhere I go, it is one of the things people complain about most and, if there is one message I would like to deliver, in no uncertain terms, it is that large numbers of us in this country are fed up with being talked down to and dictated to by an existing planning, architectural and development establishment.”
At the same time the Prince inspired and led the development of a small town on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. Poundbury is essentially a 160-hectare extension to the town of Dorchester. It is laid out in much the style of an old English market town, combining a variety of homes for different income levels right next to workplaces and small businesses. There is a keen emphasis on local materials and styles, a sustainability strategy guides each phase and several experimental eco-homes have already been built on site to test-run various high efficiency innovations.
The Prince has said: “My main aim was simply to provide a place that might improve the quality of life of the people who would eventually live there; would enhance the landscape in a sympathetic way and not be imposed upon it insensitively and would reflect the local identity and vernacular characteristics.”
About 2,000 people have moved in, along with various businesses, and the town’s commercial success and popularity has belied the meltdown of world property prices.
The Duchy has gone on to build thousands of homes across the country based on the same ideas, and further afield the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment is renovating traditional housing in Beijing, Rose Town, Jamaica, and Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Poundbury Village is state-of-the-art in terms of eco
features, yet modelled on an old English village.