Discover Dorset

Poundbury. Prince Charles' controversial new town

Poundbury began life as a unique experiment in town planning some twenty three years ago beginning with a five year period of public consultation. By the time it is completed in 2025, the finished town will cover 400 acres of which a generous 150 acres will be open space, increasing the population of Dorchester by 25%, while creating 2000 new jobs. Unlike  most contemporary towns it aims to integrate the community with a carefully considered mix of private and affordable housing, public spaces, offices and factories all within walking distance lessening the dependence on the car.

Nothing is perfect,though. One of its least appealing buildings is one of its largest: not only big, but built prominently beside the A35 doing a poor PR job for the rest of the town.

When it comes housing, in spite of much imagination and effort having been expended on the exteriors, their interiors often  seem plain and boxy. At the moment  speciality shops predominate, with the result that people are still forced to drive to  the main town for the weekly shop.

Even with its flaws, though, it is still an uplifting development

There's no doubt that architecturally Poundbury remains firmly rooted in the past, but until the time comes when architects show a bit more interest in domestic, rather than corporate architecture this is where I for one, would rather be...

Public seating

A Poundbury shopping arcade

Main square and the Brownsword hall and covered market

The  Classical Fire Station

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project that combines Prince Charles and architecture was bound to be controversial...
Ever  since the Charles lambasted the architectural establishment in his infamous speech regarding the National Gallery extension, the Prince  has been a marked man.
Unveiling plans to create not just one building, but a whole town, was therefore never going to be an easy ride.  Many people have an opinion about Poundbury, few it seems have actually been there. Rather like the unfortunate Millennium Dome, Poundbury has been judged, hung, drawn and quartered simply for its associations.

Some of the rich variety of style and details

So much for the theory, but how about the reality?
No concrete malls and soviet -style repetition here. The ethos of  the design was always to use traditional architectural forms and materials resulting in a rich mix of housing. There is also a wonderful feeling of spaciousness, the roads are wide, the open spaces large. In other words it is a very human development.

Detractors often describe the development, as being  'twee', as if all built environments should be dangerous and without humanity. Comparisons too are also unfairly drawn to the ersatz mock- Georgian developments that have been built across the rest of our country. The buildings in Poundbury, differ though, in that they are not poor copies of previous architecture styles but buildings designed with a proper understanding of the rules of proportion and form, and knowing the rules means being able to break the rules.
Witty detailing abounds.