Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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An article from the London telegraph on the controversy surrounding the development of Chelsea Barracks. It is posted here because of the striking parallels encountered between the blighting mondernists proposals of Prof. Cathal O’Neill for Cobh Cathedral and the conservation/cultural/liturgical/historicals issues marched over by the modernist-blighters.

I’m backing Prince Charles in the joust for Chelsea Barracks
Chelsea Barracks will be turned into a series of 16 steel-and-glass tower blocks, to the horror of Prince Charles, local residents – and Andrew Roberts.

By Andrew Roberts
Published: 2:09PM BST 11 Apr 2009

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A vision of the new Chelsea Barracks Photo: Paul Grover Yes, I know I’m being a nimby, living only a couple of hundred yards from the proposed Chelsea Barracks development. And, of course, every nimby declares that there are bigger issues at stake than merely his own back yard. But please hear me out. Here we see a princely struggle, between the Prince of Wales on one side and modern Britain’s Prince of Design, Sir John Sorrell, on the other. The stakes could hardly be higher architecturally, and the result of the contest will tell us much about where true power really lies in our country today.

Chelsea, a village in Middlesex in the Domesday book, became known as “a village of palaces” in the 16th century because of the splendour of the houses owned by Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Shrewsbury. The greatest palace of them all, however, was to be Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, built in 1682 after Nell Gwynne had the idea for a home for veterans, a function it still serves superbly to this day. Chelsea Barracks is just across the road from the Hospital on the site of the old 18th-century pleasure pavilions known as Ranelagh Gardens. After the Crimean War, barracks were built there, as well as a fine Romanesque garrison church (incidentally the last of its kind still standing in London).

Candy & Candy and the Qatari royal family, the barracks are now going to be turned into a series of 16 modernist, steel-and-glass tower blocks designed by Richard Rogers, 121 feet high. The garrison church will be demolished and a hotel installed, despite its not being on Westminster Council’s initial planning brief. One glance at the plans shows how totally out of keeping the development will be with the low-level stone, brick and slate of the rest of Chelsea and Belgravia. So this is where our two princes open the joust.

Sir John Sorrell, chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe), says he “applauds the strength and overarching principles of the scheme and the high quality design of the individual blocks and fully supports the planning application”. Prince Charles, by utter contrast, has “expressed a fervent desire that the scheme should reflect the stunning architecture of Wren’s hospital” and has written to the Emir of Qatar asking him to reconsider.

The fact that the local residents and their action group loathe the plans counts for little. The splendid Robert Taylor of Westminster Council, who likes Quinlan Terry’s attractive alternative, appears to be in a minority on his committee. The London Assembly member for the area, Kit Malthouse, has pithily denounced the scheme as “urban vandalism”, saying: “The pavilions of steel and glass would not look out of place in Frankfurt or Shanghai, but in the heart of Chelsea they are monstrous.” Yet these are mere standard-bearers in this great tournament over Chelsea’s future, between Prince Charles and Sir John Sorrell of Cabe.

Sir John is so much the prince of “design” that the word appears no fewer than 15 times in his Who’s Who entry. A long-serving former chairman for the Design Council, he either sits or has sat on more than a dozen design panels, design advisory boards, ministerial advisory groups on design, “design dimensions” (whatever they are), design “challenge groups” (ditto) and other related quangos. He has won numerous awards, medals and honorary doctorates and written books such as Joined Up Design for Schools (which prominently features the Richard Rogers Partnership). They speak of their prince in hushed tones in the hallowed halls of the world of Design – ie his club, the Groucho – because since he started practising in the Sixties, Design has become a force in the land to rival Architecture itself.

Facing this great modern potentate is Prince Charles, who for decades has been trying to argue that glass-and-steel tower blocks 121 feet high do not meet the human heart’s need for scale and beauty, and that areas such as Wren’s Chelsea have a character that will only be brutalised by Rogers’s “monstrous carbuncles”. The fact that most thinking people with common sense and a love of history completely agree with him is of absolutely no practical use in this new struggle.

Worse than Sorrell has been the architect Will Alsop, who has stated in relation to Chelsea Barracks that “we shouldn’t hark back to a classical age”, as though he and his colleagues have come up with anything recently that could possibly rival the splendour, symmetry and sheer beauty of the Royal Hospital. The reason why the Royal Institute of British Architects is constantly exhorting us never to “hark back” to the classical age – other words might be “celebrate”, “admire”, or “pay homage to” – is obvious. They know that if we do, we will soon realise that they are all pygmies beside Wren, that the Prince of Wales is right and that Rogers, Sorrell and the Candy brothers are only months away from saddling us with hideous blocks that will blight the much-loved vista of the Thames at Chelsea for many decades.

Emir of Qatar – may peace be upon you – hear our plea.

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