The Prince of Wales has set out his latest vision for ways to integrate new buildings into old settings while meeting housing targets. At a conference held by the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, leaders of the conservation world met in St James’s Palace to exchange ideas.
“Current plans call for... 240,000 new houses each year, at a time when house builders currently put up only 185,000,” said the Prince.
However, he insisted that tower blocks are not the automatic solution. Pointing out that Kensington and Chelsea, the densest London borough, has plenty of green space and few high-rise homes, the prince argued for neighbourhoods of medium- and low-rise building, using traditional materials and methods, which he calls Slow Architecture. This, he said, would promote skills as well as community.
“The time has come to reinvent ‘good manners’ in the way we build,” he said.
The prince argued that buildings must be designed to be harmonious with their planned setting. He suggested that the siting of high-rise buildings should be concentrated in Canary Wharf, following Manhattan; or Paris, where buildings are allowed to be higher the further they are from the historic centre.
Dr Simon Thurley, head of English Heritage, also criticised placing high-rise buildings in inappropriate settings — using his home town of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, as an example. The TV presenter and historian fumed about a planned 13-storey block of flats in brightly coloured cement renders for the pretty market town that has 300 listed buildings. “The council is frightened by developers,” he said, “development is money”.
English Heritage is working on a more scientific system to assess the impact of new buildings in conservation areas.