Monday, April 20, 2009


(Image: Richard Rogers proposed scheme for the former army barracks site, Chelsea, London)
Of late it seems HRH Prince Charles; Prince of Wales has been adding his two cents worth on Architecture again. He has recently criticized a scheme proposed by Richard Rogers, Baron Rogers of Riverside, CH, FRIBA, FCSD, for the former army barracks in London’s Chelsea district, which neighbours the Royal Chelsea Hospital, a historic building designed by Christopher Wren, 17th century architect of St. Paul's Cathedral.

The Prince has been outspoken on his views of modern architecture for many years, expressing his disgust for what he calls ego obsessed architecture, which he believes has brutalised the UK’s built and natural environment over the past century. HRH has gone so far as to commission an alternate scheme for the site that mirrors the architecture of the neighbouring hospital, and offering his services and opinions to the development arm of the Qatar Royal family who are majority shareholders in the development.

(Image: Richard Rogers proposed scheme for the former army barracks site, Chelsea, London)
However it seems he has woken the giants of the Architecture world, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Sir Norman Foster, all Pritzker prize winners, adding their names to a letter criticizing the Prince for speaking out of turn. Their objections relate to the Prince’s abuse of his privileged position to influence what they believe should be an open and democratic planning process.

(Image : Windsor Castle)
It reminds me of the thoughts I had while wondering the halls of both Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. The opulence, the grandeur, the beauty in the quality of workmanship that money, influence and power delivers is overwhelming. To live surrounded by such beautiful and precious things is a privilege, that very few are afforded in life, but in turn does it breed an expectation of the same level and standard in everything? If the royal family had lived ensconced in these surroundings, had they missed out???
Missed out on the great feeling of self satisfaction, that ‘pat on the back’ you give yourself, when you have no matter the lack of detail provided in the instruction manual, managed to successfully assemble your flat pack furniture from IKEA ??? Had they ever lived with IKEA??? Possibly Not!! It was this realization that made me pity them...
Although the mass production of flat pack furniture is not an environmentally friendly approach, I must say I have been guilty of purchase too many times to count. It is the modern way! Mass production, Modular systems, standardized materials, simple colour palate, all a product of the industrial revolution... Many of us cannot afford the luxury of bespoke furniture, and have become accustomed to purchasing the mass produced items which we style and tweak to create our own sense of individuality. These products in turn use materials that are easiest to manufacture, plywood, plastic, aluminium, glass...a modern palate of materials...

(Image: Benjamin Stool - IKEA)
Which makes me wonder, had the Prince not had such a privileged upbringing ....and had he had a few IKEA pieces to furnish the Castle or Palace, would he be less opposed to the modern movement, with its modern materials and modern architecture in particular...?