Play Architecture with Charles the Classicist

Daily Draw May 23rd, 2012


This is rather humorous, although I am not as critical of Charles as others; I think it unfair that he should be characterized as a jester. He prefers classicism in architecture and feels that the historical facade of London in particular, is being ruined by screamingly modern buildings, waterfront developments and housing estates.

For me, it depends on the building. Some of them are quite interesting. Another of Charles’ beefs is that some modern buildings waste energy and heat at a time when we should be conserving energy. I agree with him there having worked in several high-rise office buildings and seen the waste of heat and hydro electricity.

The big stink with Charles happened with a planned housing project in 2009 that he managed to stop. Richard Rogers and his firm Rogers Stark Harbour and Partners had designed the project, spent years on the planning, and obviously had invested time and materials and salaries in it. Charles put a stop to it, resulting in a public letter from ten prominent architects accusing him of interfering and abusing his royal position. The royal family, at least the Queen, generally tries not to offer opinion or interfere but Charles is quite passionate about things and feels it his responsibility to speak up. I can understand that, but it’s tricky.

The figure on the jester’s rattle might be either Rogers or his business partner Graham Stirk. There are similarities, and it would tie-in with the most critical or infamous of Charles’ architectural comments. Rogers does not have the hair, but he has the face. Maybe it’s a caricature of both of them?

Rogers and his partners designed the Lloyd’s of London building which I rather like. I still see what Prince Charles is saying too, especially in such a historically important city, but culture and people change, I don’t think it horrible to reflect that in architecture. I don’t know what it’s like to work in this building but it has great visual appeal. Okay, it’s not a 17th century facade, but people in the 17th century would have had no qualms about building around older things. They never got the chance however, since much of Medieval London burned down in 1666.

In years past, older buildings were often torn down, we didn’t start pushing preservation until the late 1960s. It is also a new age of culture and city planning when old buildings are preserved and you have to amalgamate old and new with much greater contrast in style and materials.

Should I be ashamed to tell Charles that I find that stimulating and exciting? I have also seen poorly designed and constructed housing estates across Europe and North America that deteriorate quickly and look like slums after a decade, so I feel he is doing us a favour by keeping an eye on the situation. Not every architect or urban planner is talented, and asking questions is necessary when huge, city-changing developments are marketed to the public.

Fools and jesters rush in where others fear to.


4 thoughts on “Play Architecture with Charles the Classicist

  1. I remember the controversy of the Lloyds of London building. My friend’s dad worked in it. We have the same kind of thing now, with the Shard ( I am not sure what I think of that. Part of me thinks it’s an eyesore and the other is captivated by this humongous piece of glass. I do always find the Gherkin ( quite easy on the eye though.

    Great card, but I agree with you say about Charles as a jester.

    • I don’t mind the Gherkin–it’s one of those distinctive things like that goofy Eye of London ferris wheel that identifies London from a certain perspective.

      I prefer the Shard to the Gherkin, but I’m still not sure I like stuff like this in prominent positions within the city.

      I guess I’m on the fence about these things. I admire some of them, but question the placement, since they tend to override the historical buildings.

      I DO like the pyramid at the Louvre though–it all depends. When I first saw that I thought I’d hate it but there is something about it, and I don’t think it ruins the facade of the historical Louvre either.

      There is something captivating about these juxtapositions in cities.

  2. I like the pyramid too. Probably because it felt more like a work of art to me, rather than being ‘the biggest’ or because of the shock value involved. A lot of the London buildings look like they have just grown out of the floor in the wrong place. As you come into London on the train, you travel right under the Shard. It’s height is captivating but I think it will lose appeal as quickly as it has become popular. Remember the Millennium Dome?

    My favourite building in that area is the Battersea Power Station. I find it powerful and haunting –

    • I love the Battersea Power Station–I’ve seen it on TV. It’s very steampunk in flavour–proof that what goes around, comes around.

      I don’t remember the Millennium Dome but that to me is an example of artsy people and dubious politicians getting funding for something stupid. Way too ephemeral and subjective to have meaning in the long run. Not to mention the exorbitant cost of building and upkeep. Here today, gone tomorrow was its destiny right from the start.

      Real intellect thirsts for more depth and artistry.

      That’s a good T-shirt saying–we can print a shirt with the Battersea Power Station and that sentence.

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