Thursday24 August 2017

RIBA condemns Prince Charles's bid for design review

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Ruth Reed today condemned the Prince’s Foundation for considering bidding to take over Cabe’s design review function.

In a strongly worded statement she said it was “entirely inappropriate” for the foundation to propose itself for a role that demands impartiality.

BD broke the news in this week’s paper that Prince Charles’s architectural charity was considering a plan to fill the gap left by Cabe by carrying out design reviews.

Chief executive Hank Dittmar told BD it would decide by Christmas whether to go ahead with the move.

He acknowledged that its design review panels would have to reflect all stylistic poitions to fend off accusations that only traditional architecture would get the thumbs-up.

“To be credible, it would have to have democratic, independent judgment,” he said. “We would have to have a panel that was balanced and not exclusively traditional architects.”

But the idea was immediately denounced as a “disaster” by Will Alsop who said it would lead to increased “meddling” by Prince Charles.

Today Ruth Reed said: “The Prince’s Foundation is entirely inappropriately placed for a role that demands complete impartiality when making decisions related to the future of the built environment.

“Good design must not be determined nor constrained by arbitrary stylistic preferences, or the notion of what buildings ‘should’ look like; good design is simply about delivering both the client and the public’s needs within budget, in a way that is appropriate to the building’s context.

“It has to take full consideration of the aesthetic, future use and technical ambitions and constraints of the client, site and brief.

“Design review is one of the most important aspects of Cabe’s role, and is a way of helping clients and local communities achieve better buildings.

“The integrity of the process must be maintained, and therefore it should continue to be delivered independently. It is something that the RIBA continues to explore with the government.” 



Readers' comments (12)

  • Andrew Gilmour

    Ruthie is right.

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  • I defend Prince Charles' right to express his opinion over Chelsea Barracks. The Rogers scheme was wrong and should never have been created in the first place, let alone accepted for so long by Qatari Diar. PC has the right to express his opinion, Qatar has the right to listen to it and either accept/reject it.

    But that doesn't mean his alternative is any better. His proposed scheme was appalling, and since it came from the same design ethos within the PTBE that would be used in any design review type CABE replacement, they've shown their position is ludicrous.

    The UK built environment is an embarrassing mess. PTBE are right to criticise it, but their alternatives of Poundbury and the like are equally as ghastly. They are not the right people or right mindset to replace CABE.

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  • Whilst a replacement to CABE is a good thing, I'd like to know how the RIBA (or Ruth) intend to create a 'completely impartial' body - everyone has an agenda of some sort.

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  • Ruth Reed's comment appears to be disingenuous when she states; -

    "Good design must not be determined nor constrained by arbitrary stylistic preferences..."

    The entire Modern Movement and its current prefixed and suffixed derivatives are based on what appear to many "ordinary people" to be arbitrary stylistic preferences.

    It is quite clear that the Modern Movement has had a century ot get its act together and apart from some terrible graph paper exercises in America, there has been little consensus on the way forward in terms of an overall "look" or a "Style". Wonderment follows astonishment when one of these practioners actually discovers what a wall is or redefines a window.

    But let's face it, calling it high art while the roof leaks (Rogers recent school) and the thing falls apart after less than 100 years despite using the best of materials (Mies house) is pushing the public's credibility past breaking point.

    Each decade breeds a new look responding to whatever is if vogue at that time, and the current decade is no exception. If some people like Prince Charles are now suggesting a backlash to this constant stream of aimless innovation for effect - well and good. This really needs to occur before the next stage in the evolution of design can evolve - a retrenchment and then a move forward.

    Firmness, commodity and delight are the watchwords.
    Let's head back there for a while.

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  • Personally I'm all for the current trend of taking publicly funded governmental responsibilities and assigning them to private organizations, or at least in particular instances. A good start with this would be to turn over the duties and financial obligations of managing the royal family to the private sector, perhaps by outsourcing casting and management of the royal family to the Big Brother television series producers. Big Brother has already proven itself to be of credible democratic independent judgement, as well as so very popular with the public, which incidentally has been what HRH found lacking in modern architecture.

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  • Could the HRH Prince of Whales fund child benefit for higher rate tax payers as well as take over CABE?

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  • CABE? Impartial.......? Achieving better buildings for communities cannot always be about "landmark", "iconic" movement-referencing statements and self-conscious c.v. material. Too often the so-called Design Review from CABE has seemed like pats on the back for fellow members of a very small, incestuous, architecture in-crowd. The building is all. The community not even considered.

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  • It is quite astonishing that Ruth Reed chooses to support CABE by arguing that ‘good design must not be determined … by arbitrary stylistic preferences’, but rather by ‘consideration of the aesthetic, future use, and technical ambitions and constraints of the client, site and brief’. Has she seen the approximately 50 new-build schemes selected by CABE for its recent ‘Building for Life’ awards? Judging by the published pictures (and my apologies to the architects if I’ve misinterpreted them), 20 have flat roofs, and 11 have untreated timber claddings. Flat roofs have much shorter lives and are hugely more failure-prone in the British climate than pitched ones; and untreated timber claddings look so dreadful within a few years of installation that most members of the public regard them as building failures. On what grounds other than ‘arbitrary stylistic preference’ were buildings with these features chosen? And do they not directly contradict the ‘technical ambitions’ of clients, who above all want long-lasting, trouble-free, low-maintenance buildings? If CABE (assuming it retains some sort of role) and the RIBA don’t descend from cloud cuckoo land and establish contact with the real world pretty quickly, the profession is in for a thin time.

    Maritz Vandenberg

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  • Its fun, looking at all the Modernists scurrying for cover crying "pastiche", never realising that their own glass boxes are derivative of designs done a century ago.

    Oh, but that's okay, thats a REFERENCE!


    As for the current rash of eco-modernists rushing to claim superiority of timber in construction and cladding, they should remember there were reasons people changed to concrete construction and PVC windows before extolling the virtues of a material that needs regular TLC at significant cost and personal risk to the owners or tradespeople delivering it.

    Some of the timber clad buildings in Dublin looked excellent when first executed, but now in the "natural weathering stage" and turning to silver, and flaws in the material are becoming exposed and the buildings look decidedly less vivacious thant their heyday - a mere five to ten years ago!

    The worst are those frames and areas cladding where parts of a complete section were differentially exposed to the elements because of overhangs or orientation towards the prevailing weather - part has retained its natural colour, part is silvering nicely and there is a dirty grey or black interface.

    This smear, unlike in classical design, or even good modernist design, is not acounted for in the work by a defined change in surface or material, but its exacerbated by a curve or slanting [elevation] or bevelled [plan] profile, leaving the weathering line unaccounted for and uncontrolled.

    It is not a "happy accident" in my opinion, it is a shortcoming in professional [part III] training in our temperate climate that has failed to take account of rainfall, incident sunlight and exposure to thermal shock and freezing conditions.

    No doubt some product manufacturer will make a fortune restoring these timbers to their pristine and warm-coloured glory with something that "does exaclty what it says on the tin".

    I can't help thinking this is a poor resolution of a problem that the masters of modern design should have foreseen if they looked beyond their cardboard-and-plastic model, Archicad, Microstation and AutoCAD 3d Revit electronic model worlds or employed one or two people over thirty five to review their designs for weathering issues and devised methods of resolving them then didn't involve high maintenance.

    And If someone wants to yell "self-cleaning glass" or "titanium oxide cement" I'll say "fine, but they cost a fortune and they're not timber."

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  • Has any of those defensors of traditional (what is traditional? should we build our cities like new skara braes?) lived in a traditional house? I do. It is a complete mess. It´s falling apart, the magnificent proper pitched roof needs repair every year, the arrangement is akward and the space har to use.

    I understand your concern, but please, don´t hide your real feelings. You are just conservative and want your old good days back. Sorry, that is imposible. We modern architects (modern because we desing today, we would like in the victorian time but we can´t) love to use the best materials, the best improved pitched roofs, but the truth is that they are too expensive. Are you as good clients as critics?

    Have you seen the new houses built in a proper old manner? They are not exactly the romantic thatch roof houses you would like to see, and modern british cities are build like that, not with modern style. Go to germany or holland, where the architectonic culture is higher, and see what can be done in modern intelligent way (not style, please)

    Said that. British modern architecture stinks. That doesn´t help either.

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