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Neighbourhood News

Neighbourhood News: Thursday June 18

A Royal Row

You may or may not be aware that recently the Prince of Whales sent a letter to the Qatari Royal Family requesting that they withdraw the plan they had previously selected for a site called the Chelsea Barracks  and take it to open consultation to come up with a plan that was in his opinion more suited to the character of the surrounding neighbourhoods. The Qataris then took the stunning step of not just revising the plan, but ditching the whole thing. Much to the delight of some… the prince and most of the surrounding residents… but to the absolute horror of others… architectural firm that lost the business, headed by Lord Rogers of Riverside (an unelected member of the British Government) and other modernists in love with the design. Now the screaming has begun, and the Prince is being charged with overstepping his authority by the deposed Lord Rogers.

“The prince always goes round the back to wield his influence, using phone calls or, in the case of the Chelsea Barracks, a private letter. It is an abuse of power because he is not willing to debate. He has made his representations two and a half years late and anyone else would have been shown the door. We should examine some of the ethics of this situation. Someone who is unelected, will not debate but will use the power bestowed by his birthright must be questioned.”

The Super Creative Plan by Lord Rogers

The Super Creative Plan by Lord Rogers

Personally while I can understand the need to bitch by the looser in this case it should be noted that the first master plan by Lord Rogers wasn’t exactly a gem of public consultation, and didn’t have the support of the surrounding residents. Plus to some it extent what good is it to be a prince if you can not write a letter telling other Royal Families what you think about things? Then Lord Rogers goes on to insult the Qataris by suggesting that “the Qataris never sorted out the difference between royalty and government.” Suggesting that they somehow had no idea that Prince Charles isn’t actually in charge of anything, that the Prince tricked them into thinking that he had some sort of power. Right…. so Lord Rogers is suggesting that the Qataris have no idea how the legal system and system of governance works in England? Because they don’t have TVs and Access to the Internet? Because they don’t have their own giant legal team who knows this stuff? PLEASE!  Try to accept your loss like a real Lord, Mr Rogers. Have a little dignity, and try not to insult the intelligence of one of the largest development corporations in the world. Or its unlikely they will be knocking on your door for any new contracts any time soon, and as one of the articles puts it, “Rogers has been paid millions, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him.”

The Wall Street Journal

Prince Charles Tears Down Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood

charlesIn front of the Palace of Westminster, the so-called Mother of Parliaments that is the heart of the British democratic system, stands a well-tended bronze statue of broad-belted, big-booted Oliver Cromwell. He was the “Lord Protector” who ruled during the short-lived republic that followed the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I. Cromwell might be excused a wry smile right now because another royal Charles is, some say, challenging the dearly held British principle of a constitutional monarchy. And all because of a row over architecture. Prince Charles, a vehement antimodernist, is up to his old tricks again.

The row has now escalated, with an English Baron — Lord Rogers of Riverside, better known as the architect Richard Rogers — calling for an official tribunal to examine the role of Prince Charles in state affairs. Mr. Rogers is incandescent with rage, and no wonder. It has emerged that the prince personally wrote to the Qatari prime minister (himself of royal blood) to ensure that a £6 billion ($9.85 billion) Rogers-designed housing development in the upmarket London enclave of Chelsea was withdrawn by its developer.

That developer, Qatari Diar, happens to be a company owned by the Qatari royal family. Prince has therefore spoken unto prince, ignoring the usual planning-approval process, the British government — everybody. Charles’s letter — the substance of which has been leaked, though not the actual text — decried the Rogers design. The neoclassical style of another architect, Quinlan Terry, was much more preferable, Prince Charles said. Last week Qatari Diar duly dropped Mr. Rogers like a hot potato, just as the architect’s design for the former Chelsea Barracks site was being recommended for approval by both local planners and the various national architecture and conservation agencies. Read More


Only Charles has kept his dignity on Chelsea Barracks

The quiet dignity maintained by Lord Rogers for the past few months while all and sundry speculated about his doomed Chelsea Barracks scheme was comprehensively shattered this week, as you may have seen reported here and there.

In a hissy fit of architectural proportions, His Lordship took to the airwaves on Tuesday to accuse Prince Charles of “unconstitutional meddling”. Rogers added insult to injury in that day’s Guardian, muttering about “abuses of power” and calling for a public inquiry to examine the Prince’s role in constitutional society. Harsh words from the mild-mannered Rogers, but given the way in which he and his practice have been treated on this perhaps you can’t blame him for throwing his toys out of the pram in such a fashion.

The design team was, I am told, assured of its position on the scheme by Qatari Diar no fewer than ten days before they unceremoniously withdrew the proposals from planning. Rogers was informed of the withdrawal just a single hour before the rest of us were. Curiously though, the Evening Standard knew enough to predict such a thing would happen the evening before. This has been a story dictated by private briefings from all manner of interested parties. No wonder none of us had the faintest idea what was going on.

One thing is clear, though. Throughout it all, Prince Charles has remained tight-lipped as to the nature of his “intervention”, as that is what we are calling it. An intervention is something that an alcoholic’s family and friends carry out to stop them from abusing their health. Perhaps the Prince sees himself as the kindly, benevolent figure preventing Chelsea from taking to the intoxicating liquer of modernism. We don’t know. Clarence House has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny any involvement by the Prince on Chelsea Barracks. As far as I am aware, the Prince has not mentioned either Lord Rogers or the development by name at any point in this whole furore. Read More


Richard Rogers Gets Fired

Architect Richard Rogers is in a steaming bate. He’s really very cross. There he stands, on the cusp of 76, a long and windy career in modernism behind him.

He has been feted by breathless peers and is quite the most modish and prosperous of intellectual Center Lefties in Western Europe. And yet he has just had his year ruined by two royal families.

Stamp, stamp, stamp go two little booties. Curses hurtle through the air. Kyboshed by hereditary princes! Lord Rogers of Riverside, an unelected member of the British Parliament, cries that it is an undemocratic outrage.

Having worked for months on a 3-billion-pound building proposal in central London’s former Chelsea Barracks, Rogers learned last week that the developers have pulled out of the glass-and-steel scheme at the 11th hour.

Why? Because Britain’s Prince Charles did not like the look of the thing.

The prince, whose traditionalist views are well known, wrote to one of the development’s leading financiers. We do not know the exact wording because the letter was private. It is understood, however, to have expressed horror at the aesthetic damage the shiny, angular Rogers design would have done to one of London’s more architecturally conservative quarters.

The recipient of the letter, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, is not only prime minister and foreign affairs minister of the Arab emirate of Qatar but also a member of that prosperous territory’s royal family. We can only imagine what happened. A flunky, bowing low, intones: “A hand-written letter for you, O Sheikh, written on the notepaper of Clarence House, London residence of the Prince of Wales.” The Sheikh strokes his luxuriant moustachings, plops another date into his mouth and licks his sticky fingertips before breaking the seal on the English Basildon Bond envelope. Read More


Chelsea Barracks Developer Draws up New Shortlist

Chelsea_Barracks_site_D3ADAChelsea Barracks developer Qatari Diar is preparing to invite a dozen practices including SOM, Allies & Morrison, Edaw and Demetri Porphyrios to pitch for its revised masterplan.

Firms will shortly be asked by the Middle Eastern developer if they are interested in coming up with alternatives to the abandoned Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners design with a view to selecting a shortlist of no more than six practices and choosing a winner by the end of the year, BD understands.

But the architects will be under pressure to refuse to take part after Labour MP Ken Purchase tabled an early day motion on Tuesday calling for a boycott.

Qatari Diar has approached consultants including Cabe and the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment for unpaid advice. And a source close to the developer said it was keen to “crack on” with a new scheme.

“It is on the cusp of approaching firms to form a long list of possible bidders,” the source said. “Some will say no from the off but others will have a look.”

Despite its ejection from the project, Rogers Stirk Harbour is believed to have been paid between £10 million and £20 million for its work on the scheme, originally for developer Christian Candy’s CPC Group.

“Rogers has been paid millions, so I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him,” the source added. Read More.


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