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Tuesday 25 Aug 2009

Battle Royal

Exclusive by WAN Editorial
Sunand Prasad (l) seeks legal clarification over the Prince's responsibilities 
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No. of Comments: 3

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26/08/09 Giles Brady, London
In seeking legal clarification over the Prince's constitutional position, Sunand Prasad is merely causing mischieve. Between the two of them, I know who I would rather have representing the nation's inheritance.<p>

In my view, Prince Charles has consistantly defended the people of London from dangerously idealistic buildings which would have ruined the surrounding neighborhoods. He is the best we have got.
If Prasad is limbering up to challenge the Prince, I hope he gets well and truely squashed.
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26/08/09 George, New York
For all the fair and balanced neutrality that's implied in the RIBA president's comments, I wish RIBA (or AIA or any other official voice that is supposed to be representing the profession or public interest) had truly offered equal opportunities, by commissioning/publishing/recognizing, to architects who practice in the Classical/Vernacular mode, as much as those who believe its a taboo are being offered. How about WAN? Is 'world architecture' almost always cutting edge with no alternatives as seen in the pages of WAN? It’s just an intellectual blind spot, isn’t it?
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26/08/09 Peter Hancock, Maseru
What is needed, I suggest, in the current fracas between the ROYAL Institute of British Architects and HRH , is more light and less heat. In other words, a more objective view of the pros and cons of the projects on which the Prince of Wales chooses to comment, or even oppose, as is his, and everybody elses' right, should they really believe that a design is inappropriate to its environment, whether urban or rural.<p>

To my mind, design can become an intellectual battlefield, between conflicting ideas and concepts; and that may well be sign of good health in what is, after all, an ideas and design profession. But the problem appears to be that when the issues become doctrinaire and even worse, political, then more heat than light tends to be generated.
The reference to CABE, for example, seems to be cast in the political mould, with design commissars advising the Government on what constitutes, in their somewhat doctrinaire opinion, 'good design'. The truth is, surely, that , objectively speaking, criteria for so-called 'good design' will be determined by the subjective criteria and current architectural jargon, rather than by objective architectural and urban design criteria.<p>

In this age of technology, aesthetics tends to take second or third place: hence the number of questionable building designs. A good instance of this is Portcullis House, the Parliamentary offices, whose inappropriate silhouette is in in marked contrast to the delicate filigree Victorian silhouette of the Palace of Westminster. This is purely my own subjective opinion; but it is based on objective urban design criteria.<p>

This is not to suggest that all government buidings should be in gothic mode, pastiche or otherwise; but their architectural and urban design should at least be appropriate to their environment.<p>

Peter Hancock, PhD(Urban & Regional planning).
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RIBA President cries ‘constitution’ while Prince of Wales cries ‘democracy’ 

As this week yet more twists in the Prince Charles saga have come to the fore, the RIBA President Sunand Prasad told WAN he wished to seek legal clarification over the Royal’s constitutional position. But while Prasad cries 'constitution' the Prince of Wales has cried 'democracy' and called for 'enquiry by design' (EBD) asking for more democratic planning laws. The battle between the two Royal foundations of the RIBA and The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, it would seem, is reaching its pinnacle.

Last Monday it was alleged by the UK press that in 2005 Prince Charles had secretly lobbied against Jean Nouvel’s design for One New Change, a development by Land Securities currently being built beside the fastidiously protected St Paul’s Cathedral, and that he had also made moves to block a £200 million project at Smithfield Market. The revelations follow a long line of controversial instances of the Prince influencing planning decisions spanning 25 years, most conspicuously publicised for the Prince’s recent successful blocking of Richard Rogers’ design for the £1billion Chelsea Barracks scheme.

The Prince’s actions have seen stark opposition from high profile members of the architecture circuit including 5 Pritzker Prize winning architects and the RIBA. In an interview with WAN, RIBA President Sunand Prasad strengthened his previous objections to Prince Charles’ interference: “I would like an undertaking ideally from the Prince that he will not seek to influence individual projects and schemes, unless he has a direct interest in them of course,” he said.

The individualistic undertakings by the Prince seem a far cry from what he proposes in his latest foray. The Prince's scheme coined as 'people's planning' has already been adopted in Scotland after a meeting between the Prince and Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, but the Prince has now revealed he wants to spread this throughout the UK. But while the Prince attempts to strengthen his influence by bringing the 'people' in to the debate, RIBA President Prasad advised WAN that he had already sought the opinion of legal professionals on the matter of the Prince's constitutional obligations. “One of the things that we are trying to do is actually to try to get clear this argument about just what is the constitutional position,” he said, adding, “I have a feeling that...in a constitutional monarchy, I think that one of the points is that the figure head of the state actually keeps out of these everyday affairs. The argument is made that he is the Prince and not the monarch, at least not yet, and therefore that the same rule doesn’t apply. But then I think that either both rules apply or neither applies, but I want to be more sure of that.”

In support of modern architecture Prasad advised that it often gets more of a ‘rough ride’ than traditional buildings but that this was not the matter that should be addressed: “It’s not as if we are swamped by a tide of modernism as such, but sadly by mediocrity whether it’s traditional or in modern buildings and actually we should be focussing on quality and excellence and not really talking about style or period.”

While Prasad saluted the Prince’s deviation from the terms ‘classical’ and ‘modern’ in his Royal speech at the RIBA’s 175th anniversary celebrations, where the Prince re-branded his architectural preferences under the term ‘organic architecture’, Prasad was resolute that modern architecture can be just as attuned to nature as any traditional design: “I would have thought that a good beautifully designed functional building which is also sustainable, that uses the natural wind and water and the sun to heat and cool it, seems to me to be absolutely exemplary in terms of being in balance with nature and so on and that could actually look very, very different from a traditional building.”

With suggestions coming from industry professionals that Prince Charles has been, of recent times, used as a consultee akin to that of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the RIBA itself, Prasad stopped short of laughing off the suggestion that this could be his rightful role. “It can’t be. CABE is accountable to parliament, is audited twice over and has to comply with inumerous freedom of information requests.” But perhaps the Prince's latest steps to shake up the architecture profession may prove Prasad wrong - time will tell who will win the Battle of the Royals.


Niki May Young
News Editor

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