Why Prince Charles is right about architecture

In truth, the prince has lamentably little influence over what gets built

Share
Related Topics

Lord Rogers has made the claim that the Prince of Wales exercises a veto over major planning decisions in London, and called his opposition to the now abandoned modernist redevelopment of the Chelsea Barracks “unconstitutional” and “an abuse of power”.

The row between the architect, 80, and the prince, 64, first began in 1987. The prince and many others were horrified by plans to surround St Paul’s Cathedral with modernist buildings of the kind which had by then already destroyed much of London’s Georgian and Victorian heritage. The prince dared to challenge the architectural establishment by pointing out that most people prefer traditional building styles in stone and brick to bold concrete upstarts, however persuasive their designers.

He was and remains right. On the rare occasions when they are allowed a say, about eight out of 10 people support his views, which is probably why they are never asked. This, of course, alarms superannuated enfants terribles architects. Lord Rogers doesn’t do popular, so when the prince gives voice to the people, the socialist peer has a fit and digs into his scrapbook for oft-repeated slanders. The truth is that Prince Charles has lamentably little influence over what gets built in London, while Rogers – who was architectural adviser to both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson – has and does.

There was no “Chelsea Barracks campaign”. Charles wrote one private letter to the Qatari prime minister, chair of the developer company. The letter was leaked to me by someone who had a financial interest in destroying the Rogers scheme, and its publication struck a chord with all the local residents who loathed the plan and campaigned against it. But they were not listened to until it emerged publicly – not through him – that the prince found it as dismal as they did.

This is not nearly as alarming as what Rogers himself did in 2005. A building by the classicist Quinlan Terry had won a competition for the new infirmary at Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, Chelsea. It got planning permission and all other approvals, when Lord Rogers decided to write to John Prescott, then planning supremo, asking him to replace Terry’s Wren-style building with a nice modern one, perhaps designed by someone called Rogers.

Yet Lord Rogers keeps peddling his slanderous canard, and journalists keep desperately seeking evidence of a single planning decision directly affected by a princely intervention. They have found none, because there are none to be found. Like the rest of us, HRH is entitled to his opinions, even if they contradict those of the rather grand Lord Rogers’s. And until he is king, he is also entitled to express them and developers are equally entitled to dismiss them, which they mostly do.

Not convinced? Then take a walk across Waterloo Bridge and look towards the City. Its skyline, once dominated by St Paul’s, is now a monument to Mammon. Gherkins, Cheesegraters, Helter Skelters and Walkie Talkies, all designed by Lord Rogers and his chums, pierce the sky – and poke the prince in the eye – with gay abandon. I rest my case.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the paraphernalia of a practised burglar – screwdrivers, gloves, children

Guy Keleny
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?