Leading traditionalist Prince Charles surprised the architectural world this week with plans for prefabricated homes on two of his existing developments.
But the homes, by the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, will have all the classical styles and twists that observers have come to expect from the prince’s developments.
The foundation will experiment with modern methods of construction for the core of the homes, but pour the money saved into classical exteriors constructed by traditional methods.
A leading user of modern methods, PRP Architects chairman Barry Munday, condemned the plan as “dishonest and pointless”, branding it “architectural wallpaper”.
The foundation’s design director Ben Bolgar revealed the plans following a Prince’s Foundation conference on urbanism in Cardiff last week. He said the money saved by adopting modern methods would be used to promote variety in the appearance of neighbouring houses.
One planned scheme will be in a stripped-down classical style and the other a blend of regency, Italianate and local vernacular.
According to Bolgar, the foundation had been inspired by the Brande Voort scheme in Holland by Krier Kohl Architects. He said: “What is interesting about the Dutch tradition is that they have embraced the standardisation process. Windows, doors and cornices are standardised, but they still end up with tremendous variation. The system produces a shell, which is then decked out.”
He added that cost savings of about 20% could be achieved, which could be spent on using local craftsmen and architects to create the exterior of the housing in a traditional fashion.
PRP’s Munday expressed shock at the foundation’s move. “There is no law against this, but I feel it is dishonest,” he said. “If they are using a modern method of construction, then why not use a modern style?”
But Peter Chlapowski, principal of PCKO Architects, pointed out that modern methods had been used successfully with classical styles in 1970s Paris.
“The fact the foundation has decided to use modern methods of construction is positive,” he said. “Lots of housing around the country is already being constructed like this using timber frames clad in brick or stonework.”
Speaking at a conference on Welsh town-making, an attack on modern buildings from the prince was not unexpected. What was unexpected was his line of reasoning.
“How many modern buildings have you noticed that have swallows and swifts nesting on them?” he asked. The audience, a collection of architects, planners and developers remained silent.
“Not very many,” Charles informed them. “Personally, I think we need to remember those creatures,” His Royal Highness concluded. “Where the hell are they going to cling on to so they can have a nest?”