Dorset Fire & Rescue Service HQ, Poundbury, Dorset
Prince Charles, the well-known critic of modern architecture has stuck his neck out in the last few years overseeing the construction of Poundbury, a village that tries to transplant the spirit of twee English villages into a brand new suburb of Dorchester. This particular building, a 2009 Carbuncle Cup nominee is the home of Dorset’s fire service.
Some time around a decade ago, after years of standing on the sidelines of the architectural community hissing and booing HRH decided to answer the question “if you think you can do better why don’t you?”. The result is a chintzy, ugly village in Dorset, a marriage of New Urbanism and strawberries and cream jingoism, a collection of architectural set-pieces where even the bus stops seem to have the hand of Windsor upon them, see (here).
Poundbury comes across as a kind of architectural in-joke. It takes Charles’ aesthetic ideals to their logical extremes and creates a kind of neo-Georgian playground for him and his fellow Mailites to wallow around in and complain about the rest of the country going to hell in a handcart. There’s no architectural merit here, the kind of office blocks you can see (here) wouldn’t look out of place on a Basingstoke office park and what isn’t incredibly ugly is just a carbon-copy of vernacular buildings from elsewhere.
What really riled me though is the building I mentioned before, the fire station. It’s plain wrong, the proportions have nothing to do with Classical architecture and there is no detail that suggests any knowledge of classicism. Instead it is a stately home’s stable block, it is a copy of a copy of a copy and as you’d expect it has all the subtlety, poise and elegance of a Duchy’s Original scone dipped in honey and sprinkled with icing sugar. Not only does it look like something that would give Pevsner a heart attack but it’s also a working building, there’s three massive garage doors plumbed into the side and for the next few decades some poor firemen are going to have to live their lives through Prince Charles’ experiment. It’s just exasperatingly ugly and a massive middle finger to anyone who thought the Prince wouldn’t be able to live out his dreams.
I guess he’s got to keep himself busy somehow. He probably thought he’d be king by now.