It's almost a quarter of a century since Prince Charles delivered his carbuncle speech at the RIBA's sesquicentenary, making him the architectural critic that architects most loved to hate – a mantle more recently acquired by Alain de Botton. Their shared crime is, of course, articulating the vox populis about architecture from outside the unblurred boundary of the profession.
The Prince went on to put his money where his mouth was by building Poundbury and founding his Institute of Architecture that never received RIBA validation. On the 10th anniversary of his infamous speech and at the height of the last recession, he established a magazine, Perspectives on Architecture, to proselytise the message: “The magazine reflects the aims of the Institute but is editorially independent” claimed the first number of April 1994. The magazine was initially edited by Dan Cruickshank and published by Peter Murray with an initial print run of 70,000 indicating its ambition to be read by the lay person rather than the architect. It was Country Life for Daily Mail readers. Alongside adverts for Sainsbury's, were those for shaker kitchens, orangeries and a fine art course at the Slade. The overall message was confusing to architects and philistines alike. The royal head graced the front cover of the first number with the words “Prince of Wales speaking up for modern architecture”. The contents included articles on teaching children architecture in school (good), wind farms (bad), spiders in the home (creepy), Glyndebourne (crawly), a Clive James take on the Sydney Opera House (“an Olivetti portable typewriter filled with oyster shells”) and Grimshaw's Waterloo terminal (“space station”). Perspectives closed in March 1998 with the late Giles Worsley at the editorial helm and articles on Daniel Libeskind (smooth), Alvar Aalto (legend) a Chelsea arts and crafts home (impressive) and a North London High Tech home (“Flower House”). In early 1996, it featured 6 of the best new British practices, including Richard Murphy, AHMM and Penoyre & Prasad.
While Léon Krier is reappearing in the architectural press, Charles's views remain as lambastable as ever. Nevertheless, the RIBA still holds dear its royal charter.
First published in the Architects' Journal 27th November 2008.
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