Prince Charles\’ letter to the Prime Minister of Qatar, published this week, certainly captures its author\’s voice, veering at times into self-parody. In one faux-tentative passage, the Prince argues that traditional architecture is preferred \”because it enhances all those qualities of neighbourliness, community, human-scale [sic], proportion and, dare I say it, \’old-fashioned\’ beauty.\”
The last word, underlined by hand in the letter, made me think of another man with a forceful personality, strong views on architecture, and a conviction that shallow functionalism in design can marginalise and undervalue beauty. Indeed, when undertaking a commission for the last government, this grandee complained that civil servants persistently tried to censor all mention of \’beauty\’ from his report.
I don\’t think either of them would thank me for the observation, but Prince Charles\’ fellow beauty-seeker is, of course, none other than Richard Rogers, the architect whose Chelsea Barracks scheme the Prince was seeking, successfully as it turned out, to derail.