Let's see some organic architecture

From the inaugural Stephen Lawrence lecture, delivered by the Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales at the invitation of the Stephen Lawrence Trust

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Our lives are shaped by the towns and cities we inhabit and the beauty or ugliness of our surroundings. From time to time, this powerful truth so touches a young man, or a young woman, that they decide they must become an architect - to play some part in arresting the tide of uglification which threatens to engulf us, and to reintroduce beauty and harmony.

Our lives are shaped by the towns and cities we inhabit and the beauty or ugliness of our surroundings. From time to time, this powerful truth so touches a young man, or a young woman, that they decide they must become an architect - to play some part in arresting the tide of uglification which threatens to engulf us, and to reintroduce beauty and harmony.

It was, of course, Stephen Lawrence's dream to become an architect, to use his creative talents to design buildings and places of quality, interest and beauty, and I am delighted that the trust, established in his name, has chosen to work to promote opportunities for others to follow a similar path. My own foundation, based in Shoreditch, is providing teaching programmes in the building arts, and I am pleased to announce a new scholarship, in the name of the Stephen Lawrence Trust. How wonderful it would be if we could help to increase the proportion of black and ethnic-minority practitioners in the field of architecture.

Architecture occupies a unique place in our sensibilities. As a vocation and a craft, it has often been venerated, regarded even as sacred. It was Sinan, the great Ottoman architect of the 16th century, who said: "Architecture is the most difficult of professions, and he who would practise it must, above all things, be pious."

Good architecture is all about working with the grain of a place. It is depressing that so much architecture has become what I would describe as "genetically modified" rather than "organic" - in other words, clinically functional rather than, in Chris Alexander's words, "growing out directly from the inner nature of the people". The large numbers of practising architects who choose to live, or to spend their holidays, in places that are usually of a historic nature, is a testament to the power of tradition, even if, in more than a few cases, they choose to design to quite different principles and standards.

Sadly, it seems to remain the case that architecture, and especially the process of architectural training, largely, and sometimes completely, ignores the value of a grounding in traditional techniques that, until fairly recently, were considered to be the life-blood of any designer's learning. Such basic skills as measured drawing, drawing from life and classical geometry now find no place in the courses of most schools of architecture.

This, to my mind, is a short-sighted tragedy and serves to undermine the very integration of craftsmanship, art and building that is surely the ultimate ambition of architecture itself. Like the examples of medicine or agriculture, I am convinced that the time has come for a rehabilitation of these techniques in the quest for a more complete, organic and more sustainable architecture of the future.

My foundation is unusual, because, alongside the teaching work, we bring together an immensely rich range of practical project work as diverse as the redesign of run-down housing estates in Liverpool, the revitalisation of historic urban neighbourhoods like Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter and Manchester's Ancoats, as well as the design of major new communities on the edges of existing towns in Basildon. I have always been a supporter of what is sometimes called "community planning" or "action planning" and I am delighted that this is being recognised as a legitimate, even welcome, method of involving people in the planning of new development.

Stephen Lawrence was cruelly robbed of the chance to develop his potential talents in the field of architecture. I am sure that his parents will join with me in hoping that the trust established in Stephen's memory, and my foundation, can find more opportunities for those with talent to find a role in building design, and to help them find inspiration in the many cultural and craft traditions to which I have referred. In that way, perhaps, it may be possible to create a fitting memorial to Stephen Lawrence.

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