Prince Charles: There is more arrogance than reverence in today's world

Nature, I would argue, reveals the universal essence of creation. Our present preoccupation with the individual ego, and desire to be distinctive, rather than "original" in its truest sense, are only the more visible signs of our rejection of Nature. In addition, there is our addiction to mechanical rather than joined-up, integrative thinking, and our instrumental relationship with the natural world. In the world as it is now, there seems to be an awful lot more arrogance than reverence; a great deal more of the ego than humility; and a surfeit of abstracted ideology over the practical realities linked to people's lives and the grain of their culture and identity.

Over the past 100 years, I think we might possibly agree that the old way of doing things literally fragmented and deconstructed the world into a series of "zoned" parts, without any inter-relationship or order such as is found in Nature.

The difficulty I face, however, in asking you to consider the Modernistic approach of the 20th century as flawed, and needing to be replaced, is that, clearly, this fragmented approach has produced so many great benefits. It is, however, hard to square these benefits with all the evidence that tells us that if we continue with "business as usual" we will fail to solve, indeed we are likely to compound, the deeply complicated and serious problems that this approach has already created.

I feel that our philosophical response and our spiritual response to this problem are just as important as our empirical one. Empiricism does not deal with meaning, so if we rely upon it to undo all the wreckage we have caused, it will not be enough – because it can only reveal the mechanism of things. I know, by the way, that many contemporary architects agree with this critique of the flaws in the modern movement philosophy. Just as I know that a considerable number produce some very interesting and worthy buildings.

And if we are to respond philosophically and spiritually, as well as empirically, architecture is uniquely placed to help us do that. This is why I would like to suggest that members of this Institute might consider this question of refocusing and changing our perceptions and thus help change the course of our approach.

Taken from the Prince's speech on Tuesday to the Royal Institute of British Architects