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'The Rape of Britain' : Architects Hurt London More Than Blitz: Charles

December 02, 1987|Associated Press

LONDON — The heir to the British throne has mounted his favorite hobby horse and charged at the architects once again, accusing them of wreaking more havoc on London than German bombers did in World War II.

In what the British Broadcasting Corp. called "one of the most outspoken speeches ever made by a member of the Royal Family," Prince Charles accused postwar planners of being artless, mediocre and contemptuous of public opinion.

His speech Tuesday night did not surprise a nation that has grown accustomed to the prince's unorthodoxy. He is barred by the constitution from taking sides politically, which confines him to less divisive areas, and has made architecture his pet issue.

London's skyline probably has been changed by his comments of recent years.

The design for an extension to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square was scrapped after he called it "a monstrous carbuncle." An office block planned for The City, London's financial district, has remained on the drawing board since Charles described it as "a glass stump."

Charles, 39, delivered his latest broadside to town planners assembled at London's historic Mansion House, and it was by far the most sweeping.

Recalling the German air blitz, he said: "You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe: When it knocked down our buildings, it didn't replace them with anything more offensive than rubble. We did that."

Of the planners and architects who rebuilt the area around the domed cathedral of St. Paul's, he said: "They . . . did their best to lose the dome in a jostling scrum of office buildings so mediocre that the only way you ever remember them is by the frustration they induce, like a basketball team standing shoulder to shoulder between you and the Mona Lisa."

Charles spoke of London streets where Shakespeare and Milton brought their manuscripts becoming concrete ramps for parking garages and generally referred to modern city planning as "the rape of Britain."

Some found elements of "Young Fogeydom" in the speech. Young Fogeys are a breed of English aesthetes obsessed with a dreamy Victorian past and contemptuous of anything more modern than the bicycle.

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