I don’t buy all this nonsense from the architects about Prince Charles.
It is an irony that it takes someone’s inherited influence to rein them in, to provide any space for ordinary people to comment on the buildings the property world seeks to impose on people. But it is the same irony that it takes the House of Lords occasionally to stand up against government tyranny. We could do with more of that kind of irony, if you ask me.
Lord Rogers’ assertion that somehow only qualified architects are allowed to take part in the debate about what buildings go where is tyrannical nonsense. In short, Prince Charles’ victory over the Chelsea Barracks site is only a victory in Round One, but it is a victory for democracy.
It is also a blow against the creaking assertions of Late Modernism. It’s ideological certainty. It’s tyrannical contempt for human scale. The truth is that the insidious alliance between architects and corporate power, in this case oil power, is not a good combination to decide on the future shape of London's skyline, the one we all have to live with.
The accusation from the RIBA (Remember I’M the bloody architect) is that Prince Charles’ interventions leads to bland design. It may do, but there is nothing as bland as the glass towers that are springing up across London – despite Boris Johnson’s promises to the contrary. The Chelsea Barracks site has been described by locals as a 'new Berlin Wall'. It was to be one of many bland bastilles for the future.
But they are something worse than bland. They demean people. They give a sense of unbridled and unchallengable power, and are intended to. Their contempt for human scale is part of the process of tyranny: they impoverish us all.