Poundbury: The Town That Charles Built

On Queen Mother Square in Poundbury — a quaint town in southern England — sits a huge neo-Classical apartment building, painted bright yellow and decorated with Romanesque columns. A short walk away are several rows of mock-Georgian houses, some with fake clock towers. There are Victorian warehouses, and a pink home that resembles a castle, complete with a modern conservatory attached. Poundbury is built in a range of architectural styles that had their heyday at least 100 years ago. There are no concrete buildings or glass towers with floor-to-ceiling windows. The town of about 4,600 has been widely mocked as Prince Charles’ plaything, but he believes Poundbury is what British towns should look like. The town is governed by some rules that seem to come straight from feudal times. Nobody is allowed to paint their home a new color without the consent of His Royal Highness. Other regulations are more modern: Residents aren’t allowed a TV antenna or satellite dish, and they need royal permission to park a motor home outside their property. Prince Charles set out his architectural philosophy to focus on historical styles and resist the “creeping cancer” of modernism that was making towns look like cookie-cutter villages. The biggest difference is the rule that public housing should be integrated with and indistinguishable from privates homes and that towns should be walkable. Poundbury was Prince Charles’ architectural legacy, but now that he is King Charles III, he is constrained by tradition from speaking out, and he will have to keep his opinions to himself. The time and energy he used to devote to charities and projects — like Poundbury — that he cares about so deeply will now go to leading the country.