Prince finds the common ground on architecture: Jonathan Glancey attends the launch of a style magazine with a royal perspective on conservation
Wednesday 16 March 1994
Newspapers, still living in a media dark age where blue-shirted, anti-Caroligian Modernists do battle with courtly, pin-striped Classicists, have given front-page coverage to the Prince's apparent conversion to avant-garde design.
The truth is somewhat different. As Dan Cruickshank, the editor of Perspectives, and the Prince both know, only cultural dinosaurs now fail to see how contemporary and traditional ways of designing buildings have come ever closer over the past 15 years.
In his first editorial, Mr Cruickshank writes: 'Perspectives is concerned with the care and conservation of the best aspects of our built history and the countryside, and with the protection of the landscape, but it is also committed to the evolution of a new architecture which combines temporary technology with the inspirational ideas offered by traditional buildings.
'The reconciliation of the old and the new, united with a concern for relating new buildings to their settings, will restore delight to our view of the world. Perspectives will campaign for beauty and inspiration and a recovery of that spiritual sense of the numinous that only great architecture or great works of art can offer.'
Or as the Prince puts it, in an article titled Power to the People, written for the launch issue: 'It is a matter of combining an understanding of building traditions and history - and we have such marvellous traditions in Britain from which to draw inspiration, from the great Gothic cathedrals to Inigo Jones and Edwin Lutyens, to say nothing of the inspiration from abroad - with the scope offered by new technologies to realise modern and demanding building designs.'
This is common sense, hardly the shock reconciliation between the Prince and the Modernists that makes headlines. Certainly, the Prince's advisers did their level best at last night's launch party to invite the widest possible cross-section of architects, grandees, critics and patrons. But Britain's hi-tech knight, Sir Norman Foster, was conspicuous by his presence.
In his address, the Prince urged architects and town planners to put heart and feeling back into buildings. 'This age is without spirit. What I want to do . . . is to recreate a spirit of our age. That is what I think people will ultimately respond to.' Britain needed 'architecture of the heart' where the essence of feeling, a sense of place and atmosphere, was reintroduced into the building process. 'So often, professionals, if they are not careful, become detached from what the layman feels,' he said.
Perspectives is published by Perfect Harmony Ltd, a company bought by the Prince's institute, which provided the initial funding. All profits will go to the Institute to fund scholarships for architectural studies. It has an initial print run of 75,000 but will be profitable on a sale of 40,000.
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