So much for all those good feelings we had so recently about Prince Charles and his Foundation for the Built Environment stepping in to help the rebuilding efforts in Haiti. Thanks to the massive budget cuts put in place by the British government, the same that forced the Design Council to go independent, funding has been cut for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the Prince has offered to step in to let his foundation take over their now-gone duties. As the Guardian describes it, should this happen, the Prince “could soon be providing verdicts on plans for landmark developments, potentially altering how they are built.” That would mean no more of this sneaking around, whispering to developers about who they shouldn’t be hiring, since the threat of a slight legislative hand-slap would no longer be something to fear. Modernist architects are, of course, furious about all of this, as are organizations like the Royal Institute of British Architects, whose new president, Ruth Reed, has posted a damning response to the Prince’s power play. Here’s a bit:
Good design must not be determined nor constrained by arbitrary stylistic preferences, or the notion of what buildings “should” look like; good design is simply about delivering both the client and the public’s needs within budget, in a way that is appropriate to the building’s context. It has to take full consideration of the aesthetic, future use and technical ambitions and constraints of the client, site and brief.
If you thought last year’s battle between the Prince and Richard Rogers was bigger than big, we have a feeling that this has the makings of eclipsing even that. For some further, more grounded reading, we highly recommend Jonathan Glancey‘s response to all of this, “Great Architecture Doesn’t Come Cheap,” wherein he asks his fellow London residents what the point of architecture even is there anymore, no matter who is in charge, since they largely don’t seem to care as much about as we used to anyway. It’s certainly harsh, but a great additional angle to this sure-to-warm debate.