Build­ing a greener fu­ture, by Royal Ap­point­ment

Element - - The Cuase -

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,

“ 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.

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