Queen Mother Square, with Strathmore House (right)
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Poundbury is an experimental planned community or urban extension on the western outskirts of Dorchester in the county of Dorset, England. The development is led by the Duchy of Cornwall, and had the keen endorsement of King Charles III when he was Prince of Wales and owner of the Duchy. Under the direction of its lead architect and planner Léon Krier, its design is based on traditional architecture and New Urbanist philosophy. Due for completion in 2025, it is expected to house a population of 6,000. Poundbury currently provides employment for over 2,000 people in over 180 businesses. Poundbury has been praised for reviving the low-rise streetscape built to the human scale and for echoing traditional local design features, but it has not reduced car use, as originally intended.
Poundbury has been built according to the principles of Charles III, who is known for holding strong views challenging the post-war trends in town planning that were suburban in character. Since starting in 1993, the town has received both criticism and praise from architects and design critics.
The development is built to a traditional high-density urban pattern, rather than a suburban one, focused on creating an integrated community of shops, businesses, and private and social housing; there is no zoning. The planners say they are designing the development around people rather than the car, and they aim to provide a high-quality environment, from the architecture to the selection of materials, to the signposts, and the landscaping. To avoid constant construction, utilities are buried in common utility ducts under the town. Common areas are maintained by a management company to which all residents belong. It consists of 35 percent social housing and is designed for sustainable development, which includes carbon neutrality.
To some degree, the project shows similarities with the contemporary New Urbanism movement. The development brief outlined having a centre built in a classical style and outer neighbourhood areas in a vernacular style, with design influences taken from the surrounding area. The development includes period features such as wrought iron fences, porticos, gravelled public squares, and 'bricked-up' windows; known as blind windows, these traditionally serve an aesthetic function and are widely misattributed to the window tax.
In 1987, the land was included in the West Dorset District Council local plan as a preferred location for development to expand the town of Dorchester. Charles III, at that time Prince of Wales and owner of the Duchy of Cornwall, had already taken an interest in architecture and urban design, and was writing his book A Vision of Britain: A Personal View of Architecture. Seeing an opportunity to put his ideas into practice, the Duchy of Cornwall chose to lead on planning the development itself, rather than simply sell the land to an established housebuilder. The Driehaus Prize-winning New Classical architect Léon Krier was hired in 1988 to design the development.
Greetings card entrepreneur Andrew Brownsword sponsored the £1 million development of the market hall at Poundbury, designed by John Simpson and based on early designs, particularly the one in Tetbury.
As of 2018, Poundbury had a population of 3,500 residents.
Economy and employment
In 2010, Poundbury increased Dorset's county local economy contributing over £330 million; it is expected to contribute £500 million in the next 15 years.
In 2010, more than 2,000 Poundbury residents were working in 180 local businesses. In 2017, the number of businesses increased to 185, providing 2,345 jobs. Businesses include a Waitrose store, a technical company which produces parts for aeroplane wings, and a chocolate factory.
One notable local employer is the breakfast food manufacturer and exporter Dorset Cereals, which since 2000 has employed more than 100 people at its purpose-built barn factory. Reportedly there is space for about 80 additional businesses.
Poundbury has two primary schools in the catchment area: The Prince of Wales and Damers First School. The latter was an existing school in Dorchester, but in 2017 relocated to Poundbury where a new school building was constructed.
Attractions and landmarks
Due to Poundbury's unique looking buildings and plan, the town has been visited by architects, government officials, planners, housebuilders, and developers from around the world.
Tourist attractions are centred around the Queen Mother Square, which includes Strathmore House in honour of King Charles’ grandmother Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's heritage. In 2016, the Queen Mother statue was unveiled at the square by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Also in 2016, a pub named the Duchess of Cornwall Inn was opened in honour of the wife of the Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Every year in August, the Dorset Food & Arts Festival is held at Queen Mother Square attracting thousands of people. The festival showcases the town's fine produce and arts and also raises money for charities.
In 2018, the Prince of Wales officially opened Poundbury's first church, the Dorchester Community Church.
Poundbury's aesthetics have been variously praised and criticised by several commentators. Writing in Architect magazine, Professor Witold Rybczynski said that "Poundbury embodies social, economic, and planning innovations that can only be called radical."
Among the critics, Stephen Bayley described it as "fake, heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute". In 2009, Dorchester Fire Station, designed by Calderpeel Architects, was shortlisted for the Carbuncle Cup award. Poundbury was intended to reduce car dependency and encourage walking, cycling, and public transport. A survey conducted at the end of the first phase, however, showed that car use was higher in Poundbury than in the surrounding (rural) former district of West Dorset.
Nonetheless, the project has also received praise. In 2013, on the 20th anniversary of the project, the New Urbanist publication Better Cities and Towns wrote that it was "winning converts". A few years later, British architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright of The Guardian wrote, "Poundbury, the Prince of Wales’s traditionalist village in Dorset, has long been mocked as a feudal Disneyland. But a growing and diverse community suggests it's getting a lot of things right." He argued that its main success was achieving genuine mixed-use development. Countering criticisms of Poundbury's aesthetics, English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton praised the town for its commitment to pre-modern architectural and planning principles. In the BBC documentary Why Beauty Matters, Scruton exclaimed that
the proportions [of Poundbury] are human proportions; the details are restful to the eye. This is not great or original architecture, nor does it try to be; it is a modest attempt to get things right by following patterns and examples laid down by tradition. This is not nostalgia, but knowledge passed on from age to age.
- Fairford Leys – a similar project located on the edge of Aylesbury
- Poundbury Hill – an Iron Age hill fort near Poundbury
- Driehaus Architecture Prize
- Knockroon - a similar project with Duchy of Cornwall involvement in Scotland
- Nansledan - a similar project with Duchy of Cornwall involvement beside Newquay
- Charles, Prince of Wales: A Vision of Britain: A Personal View of Architecture (Doubleday, 1989) ISBN 0-385-26903-X
- Leon Krier: Architecture: Choice or Fate (Andreas Papadakis Publishers, 1998) ISBN 1-901092-03-8
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- "Pounbury". dorsetfestival.org. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
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- Bayley, Stephen (7 December 2008). "I'll show you a real carbuncle, Charles". The Guardian.
To visit Poundbury is to be delivered to the furniture floor of a provincial department store in 1954, translated into architecture. It is fake, heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute.
- "Behind the Façade of Prince Charles's Poundbury". Architect Magazine. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
- 2009-08-05T09:34:00. "Carbuncle Cup 2009 longlist unveiled". Building Design. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
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- "Stephen Bayley: I'll show you a real carbuncle, Charles". The Guardian. 7 December 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
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- Lockwood, Louise (Director) (28 November 2009). Why Beauty Matters (Television production). United Kingdom: British Broadcasting Corporation. Event occurs at 50:02.
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- "Poundbury, Dorchester, Dorset".