My Lord Mayor, Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour for all of us, My Lord Mayor, to be in this magnificent room. We are often struck by the splendour in which the City houses its first citizen and the generous surroundings in which it entertains its guests, coming as I do from the more modest surroundings of Kensington Palace - the servants' quarters, to be exact.
But I know, My Lord Mayor, that all this splendour is not just for you, but expresses the commercial triumphs and the benevolence of the entire City of London.
Last year, your Guest of Honour at this dinner was a Minister from the Department of the Environment, Mr William Waldegrave, who urged the city of London to continue to celebrate its commercial success by commissioning more wonderful buildings. Mr Cassidy has spoken of your achievements since then and, despite your recent setback, you have still accomplished the feat of adding an additional six million square feet of offices to the Square Mile.
But that raises a problem, and it is this: how to create commercial architecture as effective as the Mansion House, or the Royal Exchange or Sir Edwin Lutyens' pre-war Midland Bank - worthy celebrations, I would have said, of the fruits of commerce. Can anyone in this room really claim that Bucklersbury House, the Stock Exchange Tower or Paternoster Square are creditable successors to those earlier buildings?
And it is not just me who is complaining - countless people are appalled by what has happened to their capital city, but feel totally powerless to do anything about it.
Nowhere is the problem more acute than in that special area around St Paul's Cathedral. What have we done, ladies and gentlemen, to St Paul's? What are we about to do to it now? Why in fact does St Paul's matter so much? Because it is our greatest national monument. It has been the scene of the funerals on an heroic scale of Nelson and Wellington, and I well remember the cold March morning when Sir Winston Churchill followed them into that great sacred building.
On the terrible night of December 29, 1940, when the surroundings of the cathedral were devastated and an incendiary bomb lodged in the outer dome, it was Mr Churchill himself who had despatched the message to the Guildhall: "St Paul's must be saved at all costs." The dramatic photograph of the great black dome standing out against the swirling smoke and flames is something that most of us today know about.
Then it gave new meaning to the cathedral as a symbol of faith and a monument to Britain's resolve. Now it reminds us of the place St Paul's occupies at the very heart of our nation as the spiritual centre of the capital city.
St Paul's is not just a symbol and a mausoleum for national heroes. It is also a temple which glorifies God through the inspired expression of man's craftsmanship and art. Architecturally, I believe it has a character all of its own.
That familiar dome, raised high on its balustraded drum, often appearing with a ghostly magnificence through the London mists and river fogs. That skyline with the sentinel towers at its west end and the chorus of spires of a hundred parish churches with Canaletto painted in the 18th century, was without doubt one of the architectural wonders of the world, the equal in architecture to Shakespeare's plays.
What, then, have we done to it since the bombing? In the space of a mere 15 years, in the Sixties and Seventies, and in spite of all sorts of elaborate rules supposedly designed to protect that great view, your predecessors, as the planners, architects and developers of the City, wrecked the London skyline and desecrated the dome of St Paul's.
Not only did they wreck the London skyline in general. They also did their best to lose the great dome in a jostling scrum of office buildings, so mediocre that the only way you ever remember them is by the frustration they induce - like a basketball team standing shoulder-to-shoulder between you and the Mona Lisa. In Paris, the French have built some pretty awful tower blocks in La DÅ½fense, but can you really imagine them building those same towers around Notre Dame? Can you imagine the Italians walling in St Mark's in Venice or St Peter's in Rome with office blocks the size of the Pirelli building in Milan? You can't. But we've done something almost as bad, and we've done it ourselves.
And at street level, just look at Paternoster Square! Did modern planners and architects in London ever use their eyes? Those planners swept away the lanes and alleys, hidden-away squares and courtyards which in most other European countries would have been lovingly rebuilt after the War. I was in Germany a few weeks ago, and returned greatly impressed by the way in which Munich has been so carefully restored after the ravages of the War.
In devastated Warsaw, they used the paintings of Canaletto's nephew, Bellotto, as blue-prints so that they could recreate the intimacy of the lost city. Lost, but found again; they brought it back from the dead. We buried the dead deeper. What did we do? Here, even the street where Shakespeare and Milton brought their manuscripts, the legendary Paternoster Row, 'The Row', the very heart of publishing since Elizabethan times, was turned into a concrete service road leading to an underground car park!
You have, ladies and gentlemen, to give this much to the Luftwaffe: when it knocked down our buildings, it didn't replace them with anything more offensive than rubble. We did that. Clausewitz called war the continuation of diplomacy by other means. Around St Paul's, planning turned out to be the continuation of war by other means.
What then went wrong? Your predecessors bought the fashionable post-war orthodoxy that arose from the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and the Ministry guidelines, only too appropriately entitled 'The Redevelopment of Central Areas'. The author was Lord Holford, whom the City appointed as their Planning Consultant, the man responsible for today's Paternoster Square. St Paul's, in their jargon, was no doubt just a 'worship unit'.
What your predecessors wanted was scientifically conceived slabs, permanently bathed in sunlight for the people at work in the offices. We all know how that particular dream turned out! It might be said that Paternoster Square, if it gave us nothing else, gave us space to play in. Unfortunately, nothing but the wind plays there. I am told that, on a sunny day, it is possible to sit down, if you buy a drink from the pub first, and hurry to bag a share of the only bench. I was told that by a survivor...
Paternoster was one of the very first of these CDAs - Comprehensive Development Areas. Praised by architects, it became the model for schemes that have destroyed the city centre of Bristol, Newcastle, Birmingham, Worcester - the list is endless. 'The Rape of Britain', it has been called.
Fortunately, ladies and gentlemen, today, we have a second chance. As a result of technological change, places like Paternoster are obsolete. Here, surely, is a heaven-sent opportunity to build a model of real quality, of excellence, next to so great a building, in the heart of our capital city. I, for one, would love to see the London skyline restored, and I am sure I am not alone in feeling this. If we wanted, we could use this 'second chance' to rebuild a 'City Without Towers'. So why don't we set that as a goal for the Millennium year 2000?
Now, I seem to have acquired something of a reputation, in certain quarters, for my interventions in architectural matters. I believe I have been accused of setting myself up as a new, undemocratic hurdle in the planning process - a process we are supposed to leave to the professionals. But the professionals have been doing it their way, thanks to the planning legislation, for the last 40 years. We, poor mortals, are forced to live in the shadow of their achievements. Everywhere I go, it is one of the things people complain about most and, if there is one message I would like to deliver this evening, in no uncertain terms, it is that large numbers of us in this country are fed up with being talked down to and dictated to by an existing planning, architectural and development establishment.
But to return to Paternoster. And I do so because it is an area of such vital importance to our city that it is worth taking up a position on it and raising my Standard over it. The fact is that the Project Director, Mr Lipton, kindly invited me, in private, to comment on the seven finalists in the private competition to choose a new Master Plan for the area. I agreed and, I have to say, was deeply depressed that none of them had risen to the occasion.
What demoralised me? First, the Competition Brief, whose "overriding commercial consideration (without which the Paternoster Square project will not be built)" - and I am now quoting from the document itself - "is to provide as much office space [they want one million square feet, ladies and gentlemen!] of the highest quality and efficiency, as is possible within the planning constraints" - that, and what is called a "bold concept for retailing". A bold concept for retailing! What a challenge! I suppose Sir Christopher Wren was inspired by the same sort of brief. "Give us a bold concept for worship, Sir Christopher - and the most efficient praying area within the planning constraints."
With such a brief, what alternative was there for the competitors, all of them world-famous architects, than to cram in as much as possible on to the site? None of them, I believe, addressed the primary problems of appropriateness and architectural good manners; none gave sufficient attention to the materials to be used, nor even considered which style of architecture would be appropriate. Surely such eminent architects should have questioned the brief?
Surely here, if anywhere, was the time and place to sacrifice some profit, if need be, for generosity of vision, for elegance, for dignity; for buildings which would raise our spirits and our faith in commercial enterprise and prove that capitalism can have a human face, instead of that of a robot or word processor. On such a site, market forces, I would suggest, are not enough.
This brings to me to another question: what place, if any, do the opinions of the general public have within the legal labyrinth of the planning system (a subject to which Mr Cassidy has just referred)? Should a private developer be allowed to set up a private competition for a site of such historic importance, about which the public have been kept in the dark - and still are - whose winner will eventually submit a single scheme to the City Planning Committee, which will have no option between accepting it or rejecting it?
If they reject it, the developer can then appeal to the Secretary of State. Suppose he calls for a Public Enquiry and then turns it down, another and yet another scheme can be produced to go through the same process until at last the opponents of the scheme are worn down by the length of the proceedings and the hideous expense of it all. This is happening on the Mappin and Webb site opposite the Mansion House. And in Winchester; and in Lancaster.
Is it right that the people, their elected representatives, the Secretary of State himself, can take no initiative of their own? Is it sensible that they can only react to developers' proposals? There must be something wrong with a system which involves public opinion at so late a stage that the only course left open to the public is to obstruct the development through whatever means the planning system allows.
If the planning system is to blame, if the rules are at fault, then why don't we change them? To be specific, here are three major shortcomings in our system.
First, control over the design of buildings next to major monuments is fuzzy and, in practice, unenforceable. Just listen to this: "In considering whether to grant planning permission for development which affects a listed building or its setting, and in considering whether to grant listed building consent for any work, the local planning authority or the Secretary of State, as the case may be, shall have special regard for the desirability of preserving the building or its setting..."
Is anyone surprised that you can drive a coach-and-four through this piece of legislation? And because post-war Paternoster Square is not a conservation area, there is even less that the City Planning Committee can do to control the design of buildings within it. Mind you, even in conservation areas, the obligation is similarly ill-defined. So why don't you have restrictions upon any new building within 500 yards of an historic monument? After all, that's what the French do.
Second, and closely related to this - again, a point to which Mr Cassidy has referred - the Department of the Environment does not encourage planning authorities to set firm aesthetic guidelines in development. As things stand, they are only justified in rejecting a proposal if it is absolutely hideous; anything merely ugly must be allowed to get through.
Surely, then, we can learn from other countries? In France, since the Malraux Act of 1962, they have had the concept of "secteurs sauvegard's", a bit like our conservation areas, only with more muscle behind them. They even spell out what bricks and tiles you must use - essential if the character of the area is to be maintained.
Third, that skyline, once the envy of other cities: let's admit that the approach adopted for protecting it over the past 40 years has simply not worked. The rules are too woolly. Indeed, the post-war planners meant them to be woolly in the interests of what they called flexibility.
So why don't we return to some form of statutory height limit, which served us well in the past, and continues to serve other great cities? And when buildings like Sudbury House in Paternoster Square and the Stock Exchange Tower become obsolete, they should be redeveloped so as to restore the domination of St Paul's - and our famous skyline as well.
To sum up: because there is this broad discretionary element in our planning legislation, as well as the absence of aesthetic control, architects and developers have the wrong kind of freedom - the freedom to impose their caprice, which is a kind of tyranny. Competitions even encourage them to come up with the voguish innovations and fashionable novelties that appeal to nobody but other architects. One prominent architect recently confessed, airily and with no apparent sign of shame, that some of his earlier buildings have ceased to interest even him, now that the thrill of creativity has worn off.
Well, what kind of creativity is that? To put up a building which other people have to live with, and leave them to live with it while you wander off saying you're tired of it, and then to put up another one which you will presumably get tired of too, leaving yet more people to live with the all-too-durable consequences of your passing fancy. There is a terrible fecklessness to all this, when grown men can get whole towns in the family way, pay nothing towards maintenance, and call it romance.
Mr Cassidy has just said that we need "more planning" to make buildings pleasing as well as more efficient. Perhaps not more, but better. In short, then, isn't it time to change direction and set down a few sensible rules such as limits on the heights of buildings, the materials to be used, the proportions of windows, even the appropriate style, perhaps? Such rules gave us Georgian London, and still give the French a largely unspoilt centre to their capital city.
And so, what about Paternoster Square? I am told that the competition schemes were merely first thoughts. The winners are only now getting down to producing actual plans. We must use this breathing space to have a proper debate. Let there be an information exhibition showing the area as it was, the plans of Wren, Hawksmoor and Lutyens, as well as the present plans. Then people could judge for themselves. Perhaps this would be an opportunity to try out some firm guidelines to govern the master plan. But please, let it not be based on "overriding commercial considerations" - at least not in this part of the city.
I am sometimes accused by architects of always being negative, so here, for what it's worth, is my personal vision. It should be a beautiful area on a human scale, built at ground level not on top of a car park square, with small shops and businesses at ground level - above all to cater for the needs of, and to create something special for, the three million tourists who already visit St Paul's each year. With the opening of the Channel Tunnel, that figure is expected to rise to seven or eight million.
So, I would like to see the mediaeval street plan of pre-war Paternoster reconstructed, not out of mere nostalgia, but to give meaning to surviving fragments like Amen Court and the Chapter House, now left like dispossessed refugees in an arid desert of God-forsaken buildings. I would like to see a roofscape that gives the impression that St Paul's is floating above it like a great ship on the sea. I would also like to see the kinds of materials Wren might have used - soft red brick and stone dressings, perhaps, and the ornament and detail of classical architecture, but on a scale humble enough not to compete with monumentality of St Paul's.
I would like to see architects working with artists and craftsmen, showing that pleasure and delight are indeed returning to architecture after their long exile. And I am not alone in longing to regain those wonderful views of St Paul's rising above the rooftops over its first entablature. Can we not learn from the age of Wren, that unique moment in our architectural history when the vernacular gothic and the classical were fused in a vigorously attractive style?
Do we still have to strive to be a stunted imitation of Manhattan?
Now some people, I know, will say that I am not living in the real world of Big Bang and 24-hour financial dealing; that my guidelines would deter any developer from taking on Paternoster. Further, they will say that my thinking would drive business out of the City and into the hands of foreign competition. But good architecture of the kind I have described is good for business. Who, with any choice, wants to work in an environment like Victoria Street?
Businesses flock to the City from all over the world just because, in addition to superb efficiency and competitiveness they can find a unique environmental character: the Wren churches, the livery halls, places like Amen Court and Wardrobe Court, surviving backwaters with their cellar bars and restaurants - attractions which New York and Tokyo cannot offer. To use the jargon: as a world financial centre, the City of London is user-friendly, to a unique degree. In plain English, business people like it. So why spit on your luck? Even the great free-market economists, like von Hayek and von Mises, recognise the importance of what they refer to as "psychological profits".
So why not capitalise on many people's desire for an environment of character and charm, which is also more conducive to productive work because the surroundings make you feel better? This is very much the age of the computer and the word-processor, but why on earth do we have to be surrounded by buildings that look like such machines?
Why cannot we recall the example of our forebears who took enormous trouble to ennoble their commercial buildings - buildings like Sir John Soane's Bank of England. There are a number of younger architects who share this feeling, but they rarely win the larger commercial commissions because they are considered to lack the necessary experience. But surely everybody has to start somewhere?
I see no reason, then, why wealth should not finance beauty that is in harmony with tradition, today as in the past. People too easily forget that the London of Wren's time was the greatest trading empire the world has ever seen. Yet it was of such a splendour that the vista Canaletto painted surpassed ancient Rome and even rivalled that of his own native city of Venice, itself a centre of world trade, and one which knew so well how the fruits of commerce should be celebrated in the arts and architecture.
We can make choices about the surroundings in which we live and work. Prosperity and beauty need not exclude one another. If the rules of the planning game are wrong, our democracy enables us to change them. Many younger architects today welcome the idea that beauty must be based upon the observance of rules, which indeed encourages the right kind of creative freedom rather than inhibiting it. And many of our best developers and builders would welcome a situation in which they knew where they actually stood.
So this, ladies and gentlemen, is a good time to reassert a sense of vision and civilised values amidst all the excitement and commercialism of the City. Perhaps such a scheme as I have sketched for Paternoster would help to drag us out of the bind of the deep aesthetic idleness which has afflicted the post-war world. What an inspiration it would be for other towns and cities in repairing the wounds of post-war architecture and town planning.
The City, My Lord Mayor, has every reason to feel proud of its commercial achievements. You should express your confidence in the environment for which you have responsibility. We have this unexpected second chance. Pray God we don't waste it this time.