Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Newsflash: Prince Charles hates modern architecture!!!

He also makes expensive cakes and his little brother is following in his footsteps when it comes to the duty to stay out of politics.

But back to the matter in hand, Prince Charles delivered a speech last week attacking the policy of building tall buildings in London (like it hasn't all been said before).

"...will disfigure precious views and disinherit future generations of Londoners"
I didn't know I was going to inherit a Londoner! But more seriously... err, it's just the same old argument - that we somehow are fortunate to live in a golden age of the London view. One so precious that it must be preserved despite the fact that London is a living city.
"...buildings that express nothing but outdated sustainability."
What on earth does that mean???
"...retain the kind of human scale that attract so many people to them"
As I wrote the other day, even moderately big buildings - necessary in places like the city - are always going to obscure buildings on a more human scale. Unless you favour parkland or bungalows you're on a hiding to nothing here.

Also most of the popular buildings in London - St Pauls, Westminster, Tate modern, tower of london - are popular because of their grandiosity, not their intimacy. Possibly the only people who think they are quaint and intimate are American tourists.
"Parisian example of a high-rise urban quarter at La Defense effectively kept high-rise development away from central Paris."
What he forgets though is that Paris' old buildings are far more intact than London's due to the blitz. So Paris doesn't have the same option to demolish hundreds of 1960's modernist blots that we do.
"...in Berlin, too ... the city leaders have insisted upon rigorous limitations to the height of new buildings. These kinds of approaches can help to achieve a far more coherent sense of harmony and civic self-confidence."
Not sure what civic self-confidence is. Most of the top Google results are Prince Charles saying it in this speech and a previous one. The only other architectural use of it I can find is where civic self-confidence spawned town-planning, rather than the other way round (which seems a lot more feasible). If anyone knows what Charles means, and what mechanisms he thinks lead from smaller buildings to civic self-confidence, then let me know.

By the way, in a nod to the misuse of statistics, he quotes Kensington and Chelsea - a pretty low rise borough - as having the highest population density in London, which is true. But a bit of research suggests that it's probably the inner London Borough with the least parkland (Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are both in Westminster). I don't think he's being deliberately misleading. He's just a pretty average interpreter of statistics.

I could go on to criticize some of his other views, but it could go on for some time. So I'll just finish by saying that when Charles says, like many other people:
"My concern is that London will become just like everywhere else with the same homogenized buildings that express nothing but outdated unsustainability"
... has he not been to the many cities around the world that have many tall buildings (including, it has to be said, London, as it has a few). Does he think all those cities are the same? If he does, then he clearly has no appreciation for the diverse, street-level, intimate feel he claims to know so much about.

Oh, go on then, one final bit of Charlie madness:
"...how it can be considered sensible, or indeed rational, to implant such “congestors” [skyscrapers] into a network of streets which were designed to function with two to three storey buildings."

Last but not least, here's what the readers of the Telegraph think.

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