Prince tells RIBA audience he regrets remarks of 25 years ago but then continues his attack on modernism

The Prince of Wales has apologised for the feud over architectural style prompted by his “carbuncle” speech 25 years ago.

In his RIBA Trust speech, delivered last night, Prince Charles began by extending a hand to the profession a quarter of a decade after he last spoke at the institute.

He said: “I am sorry if somehow I left the faintest impression that I wished to kick-start some kind of 'style war' between classicists and modernists, or that I somehow wanted to drag the world back to the 18th century.”

Prince Charles
Prince Charles: “How many Pritzker prize-winners are not living in beautiful classical homes?”

However, having recently reignited the feud between modernists and traditionalists with his comments about Chelsea Barracks, the prince was content to stoke the flames last night.

The main emphasis of his speech was on the need not to ignore the humanist lessons of classical architecture, particularly with regard to sustainability - but time and again he returned to his preoccupation with the shortcomings of “modernism”.

He said: “we can often recognize Nature, and our own reflection more readily in a classical column, or in a humble farm building well-constructed, than in some glitzy new waveform warehouse… it is one of the legacies of the long modernist experiment that we find ourselves so cut off from the real pulse of the natural world”

It was far from an ill-tempered speech, but the prince did find time to criticise architectural schooling for failing to teach traditional design; to denigrate the trend for the “bling” of windmills and solar panels; and to have a pop at the one architect most associated with Prince Charles' anti-modernist tirade: Lord Rogers.

He said: “How many Pritzker prize-winners are not living in beautiful classical homes?” - surely a reference to Pritzker laureate Rogers and his Georgian house in Chelsea - "Surely architects flock in such numbers to live in these lovely old houses because, deep down, they do respond to the natural patterns and rhythms I have been talking about.”

The prince ended by announcing a new relationship with the sector - his Foundation for the Built Environment will work with the RIBA Trust next year to host four seminars on sustainability and design principles.

Sunand Prasad, the president of the RIBA, leaped up following the prince's speech to offer a polite defence of sorts on behalf of the modernist movement.

He said: “I don't see a large monolithic tradition called modernism.” Prasad emphasised the shared desire for quality across the architecture profession, listing recent Stirling prize-winners, including Rogers' Barajas airport terminal in Madrid. He added, addressing the prince: “All of these exhibit something that would follow the vast precepts of which you have passionately spoken tonight.”