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Tuesday29 July 2014

Alsop and Wilkinson lead calls for Prince Charles speech boycott

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A group of leading architects are calling on their peers to boycott tomorrow night’s lecture at the RIBA by Prince Charles.


Will Alsop
Will Alsop

In a letter to the Guardian, Stirling prize winners Will Alsop and Chris Wilkinson have joined with Ted Cullinan, Ian Ritchie, MJ Long, Piers Gough, Tony Fretton, critic Paul Finch and Peter Ahrends in urging a boycott on “democratic” grounds.

Ahrends’ firm Ahrends Burton & Koralek was behind the proposed extension to the National Gallery subsequently described by the Prince in his last speech at the RIBA back in 1984 as “like a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend”.

The new letter refers to the prince’s recent intervention on Richard Rogers’ plans for the Chelsea Barracks and accuses him of having “re-established his mid-80s technique of seeking to oust modern architecture in favour of his preferred style”.

The letter adds: “The prince’s latest move displays the destructive signs of his earlier interventions, when he set out to scupper modern architecture.

“This intervention must now be resisted by the profession, not because of the question of architectural style, but because his actions again threaten an important element of our democratic process.”

The full Guardian letter

In the mid-1980s, Prince Charles publicly trashed several works of modern architecture, both built and unbuilt. In doing so he used his influential royal position by intervening in the democratic process of planning applications securing, for instance, the secretary of state's rejection of the design for the National Gallery extension.

Twenty-five years have passed. At the end of March, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects announced that Prince Charles is to deliver the RIBA Trust's annual lecture on the 12 May. Within a week, the press reported that Prince Charles had re-established his mid-80s technique of seeking to oust modern architecture in favour of his preferred style of architecture, dismissing the Rogers Stirk Harbour design for the former Chelsea Barracks in favour of a published neoclassical design (The view from Highgrove, G2, 23 April).

The prince's latest move displays the destructive signs of his earlier interventions, when he set out to scupper modern architecture. This intervention must now be resisted by the profession; not because of the question of architectural style, but because his actions again threaten an important element of our democratic process. To all architects who value these democratic procedures, we advocate a boycott of the Prince's lecture at the RIBA on the 12 May.

Peter Ahrends
Will Alsop
Ted Cullinan
Paul Finch
Tony Fretton
Piers Gough
MJ Long
Ian Ritchie
Chris Wilkinson

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Readers' comments (24)

  • Em - isn't he entitled to a view, isn't he entitled to express it, just as these architects are entitled to do? Are they trying to stop freedom of speech now? I thought that was a democratic right. I also have a right to write to developers and ask for a rethink. Pathetic, immature reaction,and how about going along and actually listening? They might even learn something, such as - the general public does not universally admire some of the rubbish foisted upon them by those who claim to know best.

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  • I am no fan of Quinlan Terry or fake Georgian, but I am puzzled to know why these architects want to boycott this meeting. Isn't there an old saying - Know your enemy? If they went, wouldn't they be able to put their point of view? Or are they simply afraid that Prince Charles might make some acute observations to which they are unable to respond? These aren't rhetorical questions - I really would be fascinated to know the answers. At the moment, to the general public, this boycott just looks like a childish "yah boo sucks" response to someone these architects don't like. That can't be good for British architecture. Like it or not, a lot of the British people agree with Prince Charles. I wish they didn't. If the new architects - I don't like the term modernist because, sadly, most of these aren't - engaged with the public and listened to them, we might not have had the diresome SouthGate inflicted on us in Bath but some good modern architecture instead.

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  • I agree that the planning process should be democratic in which any member of the public may object or support a planning application. Unfortunately Prince Charles hardly falls under the realms of an ordinary member of the public and his influence therefore is undue. The National Gallery debacle gave great problems to the architectural profession from which it ihas taken a long time to recover with fine examples of modern architecture now being accepted by planning authorities.It will be a great shame to see that once again set back.

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  • Bravo Messrs Alsop and Wilkinson! I hope many delegates walk out, let the Prince speak to an empty room.

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  • Well I can't boycott it because it is by invitation only. Another example of elitism/ and exclusivity, and perhaps because I'm only a lowly RIBA Associate!

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  • If these guys really had any substance to them they would also be advocating the omission of the "Royal" from their professional moniker that so much bitchin' is going on about at the moment!!!! Whilst I fully agree with their collective dislike of "Bluebottle"(for it is he all grown up?), the self-interest and protectionism being sought by the architectural profession stinks!!! How about a snappy little title using UK? This would give these splendid chappies a wonderfully appropriate moniker of UKIA; perfectly resonant with a home furnishing chain selling a similarly ephemeral range of products as is the RIBA!!!!! Whatever happened to long life, low energy and loose fit??? George, we miss you!!!!! It was meant to be buildings: not lifestyle!!!!

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  • Oh dear the prince is in for it. If someone gives him a 'shoe-ing' ill personally buy them a pint.

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  • Hey Mr Alsop! If you're not going to use your ticket, can I have it??!

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  • Childish!

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  • Prince Charles has already encouraged the humongous Fletcher Priest Architects’ Watermark Place of 50,000sq m office and retail scheme on the north bank of the Thames close to St Paul’s Cathedral in central London; an absolute souless glass box that replaced the very modern and uniquebuilding, Mondial House of Hubbard Ford & Partners’, built in 1975. In both cases, either Princes Charles' opinions or big names boycotting a speech, it's a PR game.

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