With the new mayor of London applauding vigorously in the wings, Prince Charles mounted his steed again, taking on the modernists and challenging architects and developers to make new London neighborhoods with the joy and panache that made the old neighborhoods most of them live in.
Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration. Charles did push developers to offer citizens streets and buildings with “an identity that fosters pride and a sense of belonging.” And we all know what that means, and what it excludes. To even bring it up takes a certain degree of courages in Britain no less than in America. So, I guess you just gotta be royalty, or Simon Jenkins.
Jenkins, the only British critic supportive of traditional city-making, reports on the Prince of Wales’s speech accepting an award, Londoner of the Decade, bestowed by the Evening Standard. “After Prince Charles’s speech, will Sadiq Khan now take on the developers?” praises Charles’s influential “monstrous carbuncle” speech in 1984. Jenkins then says last week’s speech ought to be as influential. Jenkins reports that Charles
reflected on how often his views, on everything from food to penology, had been dismissed as “bonkers” yet turned out to be right. He again turned his gaze on London’s appearance and asked why the authorities refused to listen to what kind of city Londoners wanted, rather than let developers and architects impose their own version of profitable greed.
True power lies where it should lie, in the mayor who is elected to decide on London’s overall appearance. The [last] two London Mayors, Johnson and Ken Livingstone, created a London skyline that is a visual car crash. Their decisions have, mostly, been environmental disasters. Standing next to the prince last week was a certain Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor. He was applauding enthusiastically. We wait to see if he meant it.
The brief speech was itself mostly pretty forgettable. But a few sharp lines with the mayor standing by are nothing to sniff at. A transcript of the poor video with Jenkins’s report is here.
Hats off to Hank Dittmar for distributing Jenkins’s essay.