Newsnight Review’s combining discussion of Norman Foster’s Swiss Re Headquarters – The Gherkin – with thoughts on an exhibition of fantasy architecture felt a little safe to me. More interesting might have been to place Foster’s work alongside Prince Charles’ vision for the village of Poundbury.
First a digression onto constitutional matters. Convention has it that 1701’s act of settlement takes the monarch out of politics to a new well-paid life as a silent figurehead rubberstamping parliament’s will, with heirs facing a similar condition while they wait their turn. Sadly Prince Charles found that hard and after much whinging was given permission to speak on architecture and the environment; issues our elected politicians have only recently bothered to take seriously.
Given an inch he takes a mile and that mile is Poundbury. Prince Charles’ very own model village with not a lot going on and a retirement home in the middle where the nightlife should be. Not entirely crime free (ha, ha!), but very safe, Poundbury is certain to become another purgatory. It’s construction coincided with Foster’s Gherkin, which was inevitably much criticised by Prince Charles.
This might be ironic. The Gherkin’s green credentials are well established, while Poundbury’s green halo (gained purely through association with Prince Charles) has quickly withered as the toy town replaces greenery with a gated community. The contrast shows that Prince Charles isn’t so much drawn to a greener world but to a feudal one. This should be no surprise as he is a leftover from feudal times and if British democracy wasn’t so stable, we’d have overthrown his ancestors long ago. Poundbury is made up of little houses for little people, living in their place and lorded over by a benevolent monarch with a number of castles and palaces to call home; a feudalist’s dream.