Azara Blog: Prince Charles on architecture

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Date published: 2005/02/21

The BBC says:

Prince Charles has launched an attack on the "cavalier attitude" of Britain's architects and town planners.

He told a Royal College of Physicians conference how car-focused cities affect rates of obesity, respiratory problems, asthma and heart disease.

"When we build badly, it doesn't only affect the health of the natural environment, it affects our own health as well," said the prince.

He urged that new buildings be seen as part of a "living language".

And he warned against the dangers of architecture being used to make iconic statements or indulge in egotistical ambitions.

Another patronising speech from a chap who consumes far more resources, and therefore causes far more damage to the environment, than almost anybody else in the UK. And yet another attack on cars as the source of all evil in the world. (Funny, he gets driven or flown everywhere, but of course rules are for the little people.)

Sure we want better buildings. The main reason we don't have better buildings is because the ruling elite do not release enough land to be built upon, because it would upset the propertied classes, of which Charles is one of the biggest. This means up to half the cost of a house is the cost of the land, which obviously leaves less for the house itself. Charles is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Architects are no better and no worse than any of the other professional classes in the UK. It is almost always the case that it is the client, not the architect, who specifies what kind of statement a building is supposed to make. And Poundbury, the Charles-inspired development near Dorchester, is, if nothing else, Charles "indulging in egotistical ambitions". But that was Georgian and Victorian pastiche, so ok.

Iconic buildings should also not be dismissed. One of the reasons tourists come to London is to see Buckingham Palace, an iconic (although boring) building. And the classic modern iconic building is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which has done much good for that city.

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