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Prince Says Architects Damage London More Than Luftwaffe Did

December 2, 1987 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ The heir to Britain’s 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 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.″

Such royal displeasure might have sent architectural heads rolling in olden times. This being an age of constitutional monarchy, however, the 39-year-old prince could do little but complain that no one was listening.

″Large numbers of us in this country are fed up with being talked down to and dictated to by the existing planning, architectural and development establishment,″ he said.

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.″

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

Owen Luder, a past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, was upset by Charles’s mention of the German air force.

″It’s a most unfortunate comparison,″ he told BBC television. ″The Luftwaffe came with death and destruction. I lived through the blitz. There’s no comparison at all. As an architect I really do resent that.″

Luder said the Victorians created the problem by putting up London’s first high-rise buildings after the elevator was invented.

Planning laws allow for extensive public involvement in the shape of London’s skyline, he said, and the royal complaints of official indifference are ″absolute rubbish.″

Rod Hackney, current president of the architectural institute, took the more charitable view that the prince’s speech was ″a boost to good architects and developers everywhere.″

The Evening Standard, London’s mass-circulation afternoon paper, said: ″The prince speaks for Britain.″