The champagne jetset of international architecture have put down their caviar spoons to show their distain for the virtually powerless British aristocrat Prince Charles, who is poo-pooing a proposed apartment complex in London designed by Richard Rogers’ firm.
In response to the prince’s criticism and what they term “behind-the-scenes lobbying” a who’s who of contemporary architecture–Lord Foster, Zaha Hadid, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, Sir Nicholas Serota, Richard Burdett, David Adjaye, Deyan Sudjic (Director, Design Museum)–have penned, or forced their staff to pen, a letter to London’s Sunday Times suggesting that:
…the prince should not be used to skew the course of an open and democratic planning process that is under way.
Poor Zaha and Jean and Jacques, they must feel as oppressed as their underpaid staff and the migrants who build their buildings…but I digress.
Time Magazine‘s Richard Lacayo mentions that the Prince of Wales’ letter was addressed to someone who the starchitects should know very well:
…the developers behind the project, who happen to be members of the royal family of Qatar
So, let me get this straight. The starchitects are bitching that the Prince is lobbying the royal family of Qatar? Well, it’s his perogative isn’t it? Even if you disagree with Prince Charles’ taste in architecture, and I definitely do, you can’t help but see the hypocrisy of these starchitects who have worked for autocrats all over the globe (think China’s Olympic propaganda architecture by Herzog & Meuron, towers in the Gulf States, and Hadid’s mausoleum for an Azeri dictator) now expounding the value of Western democratic institutions.
People who will pimp themselves to any corrupt regime shouldn’t cry foul when an politically impotent royal insists on being heard.
I liked the comment by Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity, who at a recent conference at the Barbican declared:
…when he found out that Zaha Hadid had been invited to talk about ethics in architecture he equated that with asking “Robert Mugabe to talk on Human Rights”.
Thankfully a number of people have already declared the end of the era of starchitecture…our gilded (or was it platinum?) age is over. Good riddance.
- Guardian UK: Prince Charles told: don’t interfere on planning decisions, Leading architects complain that prince abuses position to ‘skew’ planning decisions
- Time Magazine: More photos of the Rogers project here
(all via the fantabulous Richard Lacayo at Time)