Daily Archives: May 10, 2009

Shunning Prince Charles to Save Contemporary Architecture

Apparently Prince Charles does not like contemporary architecture.  He’s one of the leading members of a highly traditional aristocracy, and it just so happens he thinks architectural style peaked around three hundred years ago.  And because of his opinions, combined with his influential power, some “starchitects” (i.e. famous architects) are now asking other architects to boycott Prince Charles’ upcoming lecture at London’s Royal Institute of British Architects .

These architects (which include Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, and Frank Gehry) claim that Prince Charles’ opinions will highly influence clients and regulatory boards into not accepting buildings of a more contemporary design aesthetic.  They note that the Prince’s influence will threaten the “democratic process” of architecture.

At what point does differing opinions threaten any type of democratic process?  Isn’t that what democracy is built on, the conveyance and sharing of ideas and opinions?  I’d be willing to bet that the majority of people do not fully appreciate and admire  contemporary architectural design (typically designs done by these architects), so I highly doubt if the Prince’s opinions will have much influence over most clients.

These architects have one very important marketing strategy going for them – they’re respective designs are very predictable.  For most of them they had one breakout building design that became very successful, and now most clients that hire these architects want a new building just like that breakout design.  Some of them allow their design aesthetic to evolve based on location and program, while other architects just simply pump out designs that are slightly deviated from their breakout design.  In either case these famous architects are hired because their clients want a signature building – something that will in their minds become a landmark and a monument to them and their cause (both the client and the architect).  And they’re hired because the clients pretty much know what they’re getting.

The design of architecture involves the implementation of differing points of view.  So if architects are to be boycotting Prince Charles for essentially not liking contemporary architecture, am I to terminate a contract with a client when I’m thinking his house should be more contemporary and he or she wants something colonial?

I look forward to restrictions on my projects because I truly believe that innovation is born from having too many restrictions.  And if those restrictions mean having someone on the project who has a different opinion than me, then bring it on.  So instead of boycotting a lecture from someone who does not like steel and glass architecture, maybe these architects should be formulating why steel and glass buildings are better than aesthetically traditional buildings.