Members of RIBA are protesting against Prince Charles’ long-standing opposition to modern architecture, which began with his 1984 speech to the institute. They are also objecting to his recent efforts to block the Richard Rogers-designed steel-and-glass tower project at Chelsea Barracks in south-west London.
Architect Piers Gough, who has signed a letter urging colleagues to boycott The Prince of Wales’s talk, which marks RIBA’s 175th anniversary, says: ‘The Prince has been a poor influence on architecture. An empty room would be the best response. I can see why classical architecture suits him as he sits in his palace, but it’s very bad for society.’
Robert Adam, a prominent British architect, has condemned RIBA’s response to Prince Charles’ criticism: ‘Do intelligent people refuse to listen to someone who disagrees with them? Of course not. So why are a number of senior architects trying to encourage other architects to boycott tonight’s lecture?
‘Is this the way to present a liberal profession to the public? Is this the way to respond to a view that chimes with many ordinary people? However much they agree or disagree with what the Prince of Wales has done over the Chelsea Barracks proposal (and I agree), the architectural establishment seems to be determined to shoot itself in the foot.’
The 13-acre Chelsea Barracks redevelopment plan would involve modern steel-and-glass towers being constructed beside the classical Royal Hospital, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the renowned 17th-century architect responsible for London landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral.
Prince Charles has reportedly lobbied the Qatari royal family, who have supplied the majority of the funding for the project, to rethink the design along more traditional lines.
Westminster City Council will consider the plan, with hearings expected to begin in June.