In Uncategorized on June 17, 2009 at 10:27 pm


You should have seen the architect’s face when I said I was coming to visit … Prince Charles. Photograph: Geoff Moore/Rex Features

Is he for real? I still can’t believe the news, even if they aren’t news anymore, as the decision to scrap the Chelsea Barracks development has been taken on Friday. And then I ask again: is he for real??

Long story short:

Chelsea Barracks were British Army barracks originally built to house troops. They were sold in 2007 for a price around 900 mil gbp to a consortium owned by the Qatari royal family becoming ‘the most expensive British residential redevelopment site’.

Richard Rogers and partners(Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners) were commissioned to work on the Chelsea Barracks two and a half years ago. So far so good.

One morning, after the project got planning permission from Westminster council, the omniscient prince charles wakes up with the decision that he doesn’t like the proposal. Why, you might ask.  Well, it’s too modern! By golly, modernism started some decades ago, can anyone let him know??

So what does he do? He sends a private letter to the royal family of Qatari saying that the proposal should be reconsidered in the favour of a more traditional approach – drawn up by Quinlan Terry.

The architects(including Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid)  strike back, sending in April a letter to The Sunday Times to condemn the Prince of Wales for using his ‘privileged position’ to intervene in the design process. Prince Charles tries then to bury the hatchet with the architects through the RIBA speech in May. I’m not sure how successful the speech was, what I got out of scanning his speech was the fact that he went on and on about what architects should do and how should they respond to their site and all the general textbook stuff, without saying actually anything worth mentioning.

If he knows so much about architecture, then why isn’t he an architect? He won’t get to be king, that’s for sure…

After the decision has been made, in an interview with the Guardian, Richard Rogers said: ‘The prince does not debate and in a democracy that is unacceptable and in fact is non-constitutional. I think he pursues these topics because he is looking for a job and in that sense I sympathise with him. He is actually an unemployed individual, which says something about the state of the royal family. I don’t think he is evil per se, he is just misled.’

‘The prince always goes round the back to wield his influence, using phone calls or in the case of the Chelsea barracks, a private letter. It is an abuse of power because he is not willing to debate. He has made his representations two and a half years late and anyone but him would have been shown the door. We should examine some of the ethics of this situation. Someone who is unelected, will not debate but will use the power bestowed by his birth-right must be questioned.’

Well done, Sir. Exactly what Britain needs in a recession, Sir.


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