All this year Prince Charles has been stepping up his war on modern architecture, a scuffle that started 25 years ago when he forced through changes on the planned addition to the National Gallery in London. This year he managed to squash a modern apartment development from the office of Richard Rogers by writing a letter to the royal family of Qatar, one of whose members was the developer of the scheme. Charles wanted them to consider a more traditional design by an architect he favors, Quinlan Terry. And it emerged a few weeks ago that he also tried, this time without success, to derail a low-rise glass retail complex by Jean Nouvel that’s going up now near St. Paul’s Cathedral.
But the architects and planners have been hitting back.
Earlier this week the planning committee for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea rejected the design for a new entrance to Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana once lived. Though Charles hadn’t done anything so direct as commission it, it was by another of his favored architects, John Simpson, and the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, a design advisory group established by Charles, had shown an approving interest in the design. But even the Conservative deputy leader of the borough called the entrance “decoratively over-elaborate and almost embarassingly ‘twee’. “
“Twee” of course is the British-ism for precious. And I love that “almost”. I guess we don’t want to criticize Charles’ tastes too harshly.