Prince Charles: Should Architects Boycott His Talk?

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I posted last month about the objections by Prince Charles, famed foe of modern architecture, to a proposed apartment complex in London from the office of Pritzker-prize winning architect Richard Rogers. At the time I mentioned that by excellent coincidence Charles was already scheduled to speak this month to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which is less of a coincidence when you recall that this month marks the 25th anniversary of the famous talk, also to the RIBA, in which Charles first entered the architecture-wars arena with a roar.

It was on May 30, 1984 that Charles denounced modern architecture generally and derailed a proposed modern addition to the National Gallery of Art in London by calling it “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”. The carbuncle design was duly abandoned and new architects chosen. When the dust settled the National Gallery was added to more discreetly by the American architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

The (rough) anniversary of that speech is set for tomorrow. Meanwhile, as a response to Charles’ intervention in the Rogers apartment project, the British architect Peter Ahrends has been urging his fellow architects to boycott the talk. It so happens that it was Ahrends’ firm that designed the proposed “carbuncle” and I guess hard feelings still linger. But the boycott has already fallen flat and tickets for the speech have sold out, which is just as well. Charles and his taste for gemütlichkeit architecture is simply a fact of life that British architects have to live with. There’s nothing to be gained by spurning him, especially given his royal clout. And anyway, it will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

I don’t agree with Charles or his enthusiasm for neo-Classical trimmings and Cornwall cornball, but I’m big on free speech, so you can read the full text of his 1984 address here.