13 Aug, 2009

Chelsea bidders linked to prince

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

• Qataris name competitors for controversial site
• List shows royal influence, says Riba president

Five firms of architects closely allied to the Prince of Wales’s approach to architecture will compete to draw up plans for the vacant Chelsea barracks site in London, after the prince succeeded in blocking an earlier design that he deemed “unsuitable”.

The development arm of the Qatari royal family today announced the names of 10 designers who will bid to provide a master plan for hundreds of homes, a six-star boutique hotel, health clinic and sport centre in a multibillion pound development in one of the richest enclaves in London. Half of them are allies of the prince’s campaign for more traditional forms of architecture and urbanism. The shortlisted firms include Andres Duany, the US urbanist who designed Seaside in Florida, which featured in The Truman Show movie, and who has advised the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment.

Earlier this year Duany described leading lights of modernist architecture, including Richard Rogers, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, as “increasingly irrelevant”. Alan Baxter, an engineer who had a key role in planning Poundbury, the pastiche Georgian village built on Duchy of Cornwall land in Dorset, and Demetri Porphyrios, who has built at Poundbury, are also in the frame. So is Sir Terry Farrell, who consults with the prince’s aides about design ideas, and Robert Stern, an American architect and academic, who designed Celebration, a new town developed by the Disney corporation to urbanist principles endorsed by the prince.

Stern has applauded the prince for leading a campaign against the modernist architectural “establishment” in Britain. The announcement comes after the Qataris’ development company, Project Blue Guernsey, employed the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment as unpaid advisers on the project.

The prince had personally complained to the Qatari prime minister about designs by the developer’s earlier architect, Richard Rogers, whose firm was promptly dropped from the project.

Rogers responded by claiming the prince’s intervention was “unconstitutional” as the project was already being considered by the local council under the democratic planning process.

The site was one of the most expensive pieces of land in Britain when it was sold by the Ministry of Defence for close to £1bn in 2008. Early plans included £50m apartments in what was dubbed a “Gucci ghetto”. Crucially, for Charles, it is close to Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital and he was afraid the Rogers scheme would damage its setting. “The list is clear evidence that the prince’s influence is being strongly felt,” said Sunand Prasad, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects. “The process has been derailed by the prince, who is not accountable in public [and] who has had an existing architect removed. His own foundation has now taken a major part in deciding the outcome and that’s where the problem lies. There are clearly good names on the list, but whatever the outcome in terms of the quality of the built scheme, this is not a fair, just and progressive way to conduct our public affairs.”

The list also includes a wide range of other architects, including Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, which is known for its tasteful contemporary housing; Dixon Jones, the architects who rebuilt the Royal Opera House; Squire and Partners, which has become known for simple modernist buildings; Hamiltons Architects, a firm which designs contemporary architecture with clean lines; and Lifschutz Davidson, which is currently drafting plans for a Jewish centre in north London.

The developer has hired a specialist in community consultation after local residents mounted a vociferous campaign against the Rogers plan.

The list will be narrowed down to three designers in the autumn before a final selection is made.

Bidding builders

Porphyrios Associates Neo-classicist who built an Italianate office building at Poundbury

Alan Baxter Associates Behind Prince’s plan for 3,000 Welsh homes

Duany Plater-Zyberk Leading “new urbanist” who built Seaside in Florida to traditional American principles

Dixon Jones Extended National Portrait Gallery and reworked Royal Opera

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands Architects of modernist Jewish Community Centre in north London

Farrells Led by Sir Terry Farrell, the designer of postmodern MI6 HQ

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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