In April I posted a few times about the latest royal architectural dust-up in Britain, where Prince Charles stepped in at the last minute to object to the design of a London apartment project being developed by a company headed by members of the royal family of Qatar. The Qataris had chosen as their architects the firm of Richard Rogers. That would be Baron Rogers. I should mention here that everyone in this post but me will be either a royal or a member of the aristocracy.
Charles, a sworn enemy of modern architecture but someone who doesn’t actually have a lawful role in the nearly completed public approvals process related to the apartment project, objected to the Rogers design, especially because the apartments are planned for a site near Christopher Wren’s 17th-century Chelsea Hospital. (That of course would be Sir Christopher Wren. I promised that there would be no commoners in this post and I meant it.) In one of those just-one-royal-to-another letters that the modern world provides so few opportunities to send anymore, Charles reportedly wrote personally to Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, the prime minister of Qatar, who, of course, is also a member of their royal family, to lay out his objections.
By last week Rogers was off the job, the third time the Pritzker Prize-winning architect has been pushed off a project thanks to opposition from Charles. The Qataris, who appear to be quick studies, have now selected a charity headed by Charles, the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, to help develop a new plan for the site. Smart thinking — you don’t have to worry about objections from the Prince if you’re hiring his boys. Tony Soprano could take lessons from this guy.
But this time Rogers decided not to take it laying down. This morning the British paper The Guardian reported that Rogers is calling for “a national inquiry” by a “committee of independent constitutional experts” into Charles’ interference in the decision making process and more broadly into the role Charles has attempted to play in other issues like medicine, agriculture and the environment. Can Rogers seriously hope to get this idea rolling? It will take more than an angry interview in one newspaper. But meanwhile he has moral support from a former UK planning minister, who has been on BBC radio calling Charles’ last minute intervention in the nearly complete project approvals process “almost feudal”.
To which I would only add — almost?