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Saturday02 August 2014

Sunand urges Prince Charles not to interfere over Chelsea Barracks

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RIBA president Sunand Prasad today made a direct appeal to Prince Charles, calling on him to not interfere with Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners’ Chelsea Barracks scheme.


Prince Charles
Prince Charles

Just days after announcing that the Prince is to speak at the RIBA’s 175 birthday celebrations at Portland Place, Prasad warned that any intervention by the heir to the throne risked undermining the “democratic process”.

The Prince recently wrote to the Emir of Qatar, whose Qatari Diar is the major investor in Chelsea Barracks developer Project Blue, urging him to scrap RSHP’s modern glass and steel design, which he believes is “unsympathetic” to Christopher Wren’s nearby Royal Chelsea Hospital. He argued that the RSHP design should be replaced by a neo-classical alternative by Quinlan Terry.


Sunand Prasad
Sunand Prasad

“I appeal to HRH The Prince of Wales to allow the properly constituted and conducted planning process to take place unhindered,” said Prasad.

"The design for the Chelsea Barracks site by Rogers Stirk and Harbour has been proceeding through the planning system with revisions following extensive consultation and comments and through duly constituted design review.

“Any intervention that compromises the democratic process has the potential to diminish the ability of the clients, the designers, local community and local authorities to arrive at fully considered solutions without undue influence.”

Full RIBA statement on Chelsea Barracks

"The design for the Chelsea Barracks site by Rogers Stirk and Harbour has been proceeding through the planning system with revisions following extensive consultation and comments and through duly constituted design review. Any intervention that compromises the democratic process has the potential to diminish the ability of the clients, the designers, local community and local authorities to arrive at fully considered solutions without undue influence. I appeal to HRH The Prince of Wales to allow the properly constituted and conducted planning process to take place unhindered."

Amanda Baillieu's View

Amanda BaillieuA justified barracking

It’s all hotting up nicely. Just as the RIBA was being congratulated for its magnanimity in welcoming the Prince of Wales back to Portland Place, he drops another clanger of rather epic proportions.

It’s not simply that he doesn’t like the Rogers Stirk Harbour scheme for Chelsea Barracks, it’s that he’s back to his old trick of asking his architect friends, this time Quinlan Terry, to knock up an alternative.

Now, and very unwisely, the RIBA has waded into the row with no less than its president pleading for the prince to back off.

The prince is quite aware of the trouble he’s causing (and secretly enjoying every minute of it), and Sunand Prasad is helping to confirm the public view that architects are pompous and out of touch by telling his royal highness to “allow the properly constituted and conducted planning process to take place unhindered”.

Of course the prince’s intervention is unfortunate, but as a piece of urbanism Chelsea Barracks is not a particularly good scheme, and so far nobody has listened.

It’s not simply that it’ll be a Gucci ghetto, it’s that its overall form gives very little back to the city. Anything or anyone that starts the debate over this important London site is to be welcomed — royal or otherwise.

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Readers' comments (17)

  • In other words - mind your own business CW

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  • This is really a question of principle. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Prince Charles, all architects should be united in telling him to back off!

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  • Architects have been getting away with murder: for centuries!!! So have the Kings and Queens of England, or as in this case: a potential King. So that should give a lot of common ground between them? In this case the "Gucci getto", as AB delightfully describes this development, deserves a long and painful execution. Essentially public land sold off by a spendthrift Government looking for any cashflow it can generate, the project was damned from it's very beginning. It is astonishing that Rogers & Co are even prepared to do this type of work: but you have to remember Rogers is a man living in not one, but two merged mansion houses in Chelsea: a reality he loves to flaunt to his potential clients. Oh yes, and while we're at it: "a little light lunch at the River Cafe?" So if the project cannot succeed without using grotesquely high densities ( a neighbours halitosis could become an issue!!), let the UK Government buy back the site for a project reflecting aspects of life and culture in the UK that are not the dog-ends of burnt-out Thatcherism. It's only likely to cost a couple of billion pounds: bugger all in banker's scheme of finance these days! Turn again Dick!!! Do we really need another temple of "petrodollar renaissance" in central London?

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  • So now we have the RIBA President wading in to support his architect lovies. This is exactly what the public are so angry about - a small clique of architects seeking to impose their very narrow design mindsets on our city. The residents of Chelsea have been shouting loud and clear that they don't want the proposed development to scar their neighbourhood but all RIBA can do is wag their finger and say The Architect knows whats good for you so shut up. Therefore it is the Prince standing up for his people against an architectural elite of supreme arrogance closing ranks. I know which side the true democracy lies and it sure ain't the developers and their architect lackies!

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  • I spy with my little eye a quickly enlargeable loophole forming.....

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  • If it means shutting him up and neutralising his invigorating interferences I hope Prince Charles never becomes King. He has sent the flock into the air precisely because he has jumped in with such gusto and because it is not something he does every day of his life. Thank you Your Royal Highness. Richard Rogers should be ashamed of his boomfest design for the Barracks site. Why did he sell his soul to join the Candywagon and substitute chavstyle for real creative drive. And why do all those rigidly lined up blocks make me think of fascism?

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  • It is not the place for anyone to tell another person to stop protesting, in whatever form. I would say Sunand does not represent the entire Architectural Fraternity in this. If Charles has this view, and many architects I have spoken to share a similar view that the Rogers scheme is HIGHLY inappropriate ... and is also such that it is of city-wide and of national importance to warrant both being called in by the Mayor and by the Secretary of state. Mizz Rogers will find her architectural style a thing of the eighties, and do we really want such retro ugliness littering our capital. As a foreigner I should tell you that no visitor to this country comes to look at this countries 'modern buildings' (with the exception of those in the city), they actually come for the history and the architecture that makes Britain and its people unique. If the visitors stop coming because Architects have filled the country with such rubbish, our economy will simply collapse deeper and deeper. One only has to look and listen to our guests when they stand in awe in Traffalgar Square, Sloane Square, along Kings Road, the lanes around Carnaby Street, Covent Garden, Soho and Hoxton....

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  • Cromwellallian yet muted messages are being issued from the RIBA, again. I would agree with Amanda Baillieu that the tone is somewhat pompous – maybe this fits the adversary but it any case it falls short of the mark. What is interesting however is Amanda Baillieu's mid sentience remark that the „scheme isn't any good“! Has there been a crit on this one yet I ask. If not then let's have one and see what we are talking about. Clearly, discussing the virtues of the Architecture is one which the investor has to remark on as Qatari Diar ( et al) are footing the bill for this programme and clearly won't bat an eyelid if it’s what they , commercial, want. I remember way back in the 1980's commenting on Canary Wharf and the Reichmann brothers efforts to re-invent Atlanta in London, which of course has been achieved! – here we argued that the planning processes had been compromised and vision put on the back-burner to achieve density and, what was seen to be, acceptable corporate architecture. What we have here is slightly different, in that the Architect is one which one would say is passionate about Urban issues and has significant accolades to be known for “good-design practice“. Equally, it may also be said the same Architect would be not so proud to admit, if it was found to be, that they have got it wrong. Maybe RSH have got it wrong, but who is to say? With such a question floating in the air it maybe that informed and layman’s opinions need to brought together on centre stage , to see if there is a need to redress the existing scheme, or , if it’s all about personal dignity and hobby-horse opinions. Personally, I am sure the Emir of Qatar is not fully equipped to lead the debate but may be well placed to appoint a champion who can be careful in setting up the agenda and vigorous in managing the players. But please, let us not have another Trafalgar square scenario.

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  • If and when Charles becomes King, then the RIBA might well consider occupying Churchill's war time bunker - they will need it!

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  • People are always saying we needn't worry about the British monarchy. "They're harmless" we're told "and have no power." So it isn't true then?

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