The Null Device

The dead hand of neo-traditionalism

Controversy has erupted in Britain after it emerged that Prince Charles used his personal influence with Qatari royalty to sack modernist architect Lord Richard Rogers from a development in London. Charles has been an outspoken critic of modern architecture and advocate of neo-traditionalist styles, and even created a model village to showcase his ideas about "proper" architecture, and then designed (or perhaps art-directed) the fire station. Charles' preferred replacement for Rogers is Quinlan Terry, a peddler of honey-hued neo-classicist kitsch.

As worthy of comment as Charles' architectural preferences are, there is more at stake. For one, Britain's constitutional monarch is meant to refrain from exercising powers over the day-to-day business of government. (This is the flipside of the monarch being above the sort of probing criticism that politicians and policymakers should expect; in a modern society, hereditary authority should be at most purely ceremonial.) Charles is not the monarch, but is next in line to be, and this case is worrying. Whilst his preferences for chocolate-box architecture may be quaint or risible, he is also an advocate of potentially harmful pseudoscientific theories such as homeopathy. Were he to grow comfortable with using his influence to guide the system, could we expect to see, for example, NHS funds being diverted away from tested medical care and into the pockets of quacks and charlatans? And would the prospect of his interventions in, say, education or transport or finance, should he decide to have a hand at such, be any less troubling?

There are 1 comments on "The dead hand of neo-traditionalism":

Posted by: Greg Wed Jun 17 15:19:01 2009

If he opposes modernism's clean formalism - "Why has everything got to be vertical, straight, unbending, only at right angles – and functional?" - then by my reading of the Wikipedia entry (, that makes him a postmodernist. Please, before I die, let me witness on YouTube Prince Charles declare himself a postmodernist.

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