The Prince of Wales blasts new generation of skyscrapers warning they will disfigure London
The Prince of Wales has returned to one of his favourite controversies – modern high-rise buildings, or “carbuncles”.
In a lengthy speech delivered yesterday, Prince Charles referred to the notorious phrase “monstrous carbuncle” that he coined in 1984 to brand the planned extension to the National Gallery and send shock waves through the architectural establishment.
This time round, he expanded his argument with the words: “Not just one carbuncle, ladies and gentlemen, on the face of a much-loved friend, but a positive rash of them that will disfigure and disinherit future generations of Londoners.”
The objects of his ire were “taller buildings in our historic towns and cities, and especially in and around the United Kingdom’s 27 world heritage sites,” principally Edinburgh and Bath. “In this area I very much fear we are repeating the mistakes of the 1960s, but doing so with even greater hubris and efficiency.”
Incendiary stuff. Is Charles inflaming the architectural profession all over again? Well, this time he tempered his antagonistic remarks with more emollient comments. He even admitted he was not opposed to tall buildings. Instead he was concerned that they “should be considered in their context: in other words they should be put where they fit properly.” In other words, a few miles east of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London – in Canary Wharf, to be precise.
“If new vertical cul-de-sacs are to be built,” he concluded, “then it seems self-evident to me that they should stand together to establish a new skyline and not compete with or confuse what is currently there – as has already happened to a depressing and disastrous extent.”
A strategy, in fact, that coincides with the long-established policy of English Heritage and even so some extent, that of CABE. But it’s not a vision that matches Ken Livingstone’s architectural department, Design for London, which is keen to boost the City of London as a dominant and prominent world financial centre.
Extract from Prince Charles’ speech
Requirements to build on brownfield land and an appropriate concern about building at densities that support public transport and mixed-use means that much of the new housing is being built within existing built-up areas, and provided in the form of flats in residential towers of nine to twenty stories.
These towers are generally opposed by local residents, but loved by buy-to-let investors and planners to add a bit of the wow factor to their suburb or town.
I therefore hope very much that this conference will address the issue of building housing at greater densities in a way that is harmonious with town and city scapes, with the existing heritage and with the needs and desires of local residents.
We have endured for too long the prevailing lack of courtesy within the public realm and the time has come to reinvent “good manners” in the way we build. We should surely be asking whether it is a natural pre-requisite of “being modern” to display bad manners?
Is it being modern, for instance, to vandalize the few remaining relatively unspoilt, beautiful areas of our cities, any more than it would be modern to mug defenceless elderly people? Can it not be modern “to do to others as you would have them do to you?” That’s the question.