Friday 12 June 2009

All hail the Chelsea Barracks victory!

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.


makowski said...

i think -- You are Right. it's ideological; and about Money...
(and the same - maybye worse, because we have here extremelly young democracy - problems we have here: in warsaw; and - i think - in the rest of eastern europe...)

Unknown said...

Prince Charles' favourite architect and defender of the architectural legacy of Albert Speer, Quinlan Terry is a victory - for whom?!

In what way is it a 'victory for democracy'? Prince Charles is an unelected figure taking jobs for more than 5000 people on the basis of his personal taste!

David Boyle said...

What we need is some kind of constitutional inquiry about how unelected people can foist their personal taste on the rest of us. Yes, it's time we investigated Rogers and Foster and the rest of the modernist dinosaurs. To argue that we need these kind of bastilles because of the jobs, is seriously depressing. Think how many jobs we could create if we made London human-scale an beautiful...

Unknown said...

And Prince Charles is somehow a champion of the people?

"You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe. When it knocked down our buildings, it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble…."

This quote from Prince Charles is a total insult to Londoners and to the people who fought the Nazi's, that the Luftwaffe has more decency in their actions through destruction than that of pervasive style of the 20th Century.

'Style' is not the issue here. There are good Modernist buildings and bad Modernist buildings.

Find me one person who doesn't like the London Eye or the Gherkin - they are treasured London land marks. They are part of the landscape as much as Red London buses.

Wren proposed a grid layout for London after the great fire but his vision was never implemented - his architecture was hated by many in it's day. The same with all forms of music and culture that is 'new'. The debate about Modernism is almost 60-80 years out of date.

For someone unelected and only gained his position by birth to bring in a team of 'faux nostalgic' architects who trash real landmarks is a total travesty.

Hadwin said...

"Find me one person who doesn't like the London Eye or the Gherkin"
I don't like the Gherkin. So that's one person, for a start.