Ladies and gentlemen, I really cannot tell you how incredibly touched I am to be presented with this magnificent award (which I will never be able to lift!) from the Driehaus Foundation and from Notre Dame. I really am immensely grateful and I am enormously flattered to be recognized alongside honourees such as Leon Krier, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, also Quinlan Terry and Michael Graves. And it is particularly special that the honour has been given by Richard Driehaus and Notre Dame’s School of Architecture because their commitment to educating future generations has been remarkable, and I am so pleased to be able to donate the very generous prize money to my Foundation in order to establish a new undergraduate diploma course in sustainability and the building Arts.
It is an element of education that I have long been desperate for my Foundation to re-introduce and I am so thrilled that, thanks to the incredible kindness of the Driehaus Foundation, it will now be able to do so. As poor Hank Dittmar knows, I have been badgering him for years about trying to start this course. So if I may say so it has come like Father Christmas, and it is something very special.
I must say, it is a particular pleasure to see so many familiar faces today and I am immensely grateful to all of you for taking the time out of what I know are incredibly busy schedules to be here, as my Foundation launches its new identity.
I do also want to take this opportunity to add my very special thanks to Richard Driehaus for all the support that he has given over many years to a charity that is particularly close to my heart – The International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism. With his support, I.N.T.B.A.U. has grown to a network of over five thousand people, with chapters in eighteen countries, and a renowned crafts training programme in Romania. I can only hope that this award from Notre Dame University, a world leader in the education of traditional architects and urbanists, will deepen the strong collaboration that already exists between I.N.T.B.A.U., my Foundation and Notre Dame. I know that Dean Michael Lykoudis and Hank Dittmar have great plans for working together and I look forward to them coming to fruition.....hopefully before I lose my marbles and can’t at the end of the day appreciate all the added value and excitement that this might bring.
Now this award comes at an important time in the evolution of my Foundation. This morning I visited a community project in Waterloo, where my Foundation is bringing together the local community to consider and plan how to create a more sustainable community. Waterloo, as many of you know, is a vibrant area with many unique local businesses and residents who together enrich the patina of everyday city life. As many of you will have heard me say before, I have always believed that communities such as these, with their individual identities, need to be supported and encouraged, and that we should draw on their local experience, wisdom and knowledge in the planning and development process. This is why my Foundation has pioneered the use of the Enquiry by Design process, which seeks to place people at the heart of any design or plan and brings together a cross-section of the community. By welcoming debate and encouraging communities to express their concerns, my Foundation has helped to create settlements which are better suited to local requirements and with a much greater chance of long-term success and sustainability.
As I walked around Waterloo, it was rather extraordinary to think that it was over twenty-five years ago I first started on what turned out to be an extremely lonely road towards establishing my Foundation so that we could tackle the lost art of community-building. I believed then, as I do now, that the nature of the built environment significantly determines our quality of life. I have long been concerned about an under-appreciation of the effect that the way we plan and build our towns and cities has on people’s physical and mental well-being. My Foundation was established to foster that crucial dimension of spirit and human feeling in our thinking, designing and practice that had been so lacking in post-war development. I therefore wanted to create an organization both to champion and to show what it means to build harmoniously and in an environmentally friendly manner. It simply cannot be a coincidence that creating places where people actually want to live - that are built with an eye to enduring appeal and versatility and where people can walk from their house to the shop to the local school - leads to more durable, contented and productive communities. Revealingly, when I sat down with a whole group of young people in the riot-torn areas of London last August – those whose impossibly difficult lives had been completely turned around by my Prince’s Trust — people who had been on drugs, in jail, involved in crime, you name it – they told me (and I quote) that “race wasn’t the issue; class wasn’t the issue; the issue was schools, families and the environment in which they lived”.
And as you will not be surprised to hear, I have always believed that if you want to effect change it is not enough merely to champion an idea, but absolutely vital to make the effort to create tangible examples on the ground that prove this philosophy, and then inspire other communities to do the same.
My belief in the added social and environmental value of harmonious and sustainable community-building was first put into practice at Poundbury, an extension to Dorchester designed by Leon Krier with my Duchy of Cornwall. At the time, I am afraid to say that not everyone warmed to the principles of timeless sustainable design. Yet listening to the wisdom of local people and planning in a way that took local identity and environmental responsibility into account, is now reaping remarkable rewards. My Foundation has gone on to replicate these ideas by engaging with communities with great success all over the U.K., from Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter to Coed Darcy in South Wales and Westoe Colliery in the North-East.
As my Foundation enters a new era, I did just want to say that I am incredibly proud of its commitment to investing in education and sharing knowledge and best practice, which has always been at the core of its work and mission. For over twenty years now, my Foundation has offered broad and much-needed education that is sadly unavailable elsewhere, giving people the kind of integrated, holistic skills they need to create sustainable and beautiful places through programmes such as the Summer School and the Graduate Fellowship. The most difficult art of place-making had to all intents and purposes become a lost art, literally, until my Foundation rescued it and invested in the long-term business of training future practitioners of this subtle art.
And I am so pleased that my Foundation has evolved from its original incarnation – as my Institute of Architecture – to the present day Foundation, which now combines this education work with championing community-building worldwide, engaging with all sorts of people across the globe and bringing talented people together to create long-term, practical solutions in places as diverse as Sierra Leone, Haiti, Vancouver, Jamaica and the Galapagos islands.
And thinking of Jamaica, it was over twelve years ago now that during an official visit to Jamaica I visited the slums in Kingston – a particularly challenging area – and it won’t suprise many of you that I couldn’t resist trying to do something about the problems I came across there. That is the difficulty I’m afraid in my case, I can’t bear seeing things that haven’t been done. The frustrations experienced in trying to get anything off the ground were beyond belief, but the upshot was that my Foundation has been working for almost seven years in Rose Town – a district of Kingston – which has been plagued by gang violence for nearly thirty years. Working with local community members, they have managed to bring the two sides of the community together to work on a common plan, to train the young people and to start craft-based businesses, all funded by a group of British and American donors. And now, twelve years later, thanks to some generous support from the Department for International Development and U.S. AID, among others, we are moving forward to help residents obtain title to their homes, pave roads, ensure access to clean drinking water and improve sanitation and drainage. Such work has, I have been told by the people living there, had a profound impact on their lives and has helped to tackle the gang violence. I am particularly pleased to see Angela Stultz is with us today all the way from Jamaica, who has been working so tirelessly on the project.
If we are to try and build our communities to improve the lives of its inhabitants, then surely equal emphasis should be placed on the design of homes within these communities and their use of natural resources.
With this in mind, my Foundation, together with the Building Research Establishment, have worked over recent years on a project to design and build the Natural House, which demonstrates the most effective route to low-energy, low-carbon homes, designed for longevity and with traditional appeal. I hope that some of you might have seen a version of it, which was exhibited at the Ideal Home Show last March. I need hardly say that after all this extensive effort on the part of my Foundation I have been greatly heartened by the positive response of people who have seen it - many of whom were, I am told, relieved to see that eco-homes do not always have to be a kind of alien from outer space, but can be beautiful and comfortable places with a real sense of identity and belonging. The emphasis is on natural, low-impact materials that perform well together and can be produced in this country. The design builds on traditional approaches, but also employs the best of new technologies, and is intended to be built on site by local workforces - with the kind of crafts that continue to be taught through my Foundation’s Building Crafts Apprentice programme. The sort of programme that Ben has been on, and from which he learnt his public speaking techniques. I only wish to God that I could thatch I must say – at least I can lay a hedge! But this sort of partnership work will, I hope, be a crucial strand of activity for my Foundation in the future…
You hardly need me to tell you that we face increasingly uncertain times with the combined effects of massive population growth, climate change, mass urbanization and dangerously volatile global markets. Consumption of materials, the way we live, what we eat and how we grow our food are all under scrutiny like never before. As such, the urgent need for my Foundation's expertise is unprecedented. Over sixty per cent of our carbon emissions can be attributed to the built environment, and so all of us who are involved with the making of “place” have a great responsibility to do so in a harmonious and ecologically sensitive way.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I unveil my Foundation’s new identity, I would like to say how incredibly grateful I am to W.P.P. – and Peter Dart in particular – who have been so brilliant and patient in developing the new brand with my Foundation for the last few months. I can only hope that after all their hard work you think it looks rather good! If you don’t, then you’re not getting a free drink at the end of all this….!
Finally, I must say that it is enormously encouraging to see how many agencies and organizations are now working alongside my Foundation to promote better, more appropriate and more sympathetic ways of doing things. After twenty-five years of battling in a hostile environment, I hope I have managed to convey at least some sense of why the work of my Foundation is so important to me and why I believe it has a vital and distinct role to play in addressing the central issues of the twenty-first century.