Prince unveils Chinatown designs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 October, 2008, 12:00am

Prince Charles has revealed plans for a makeover for London's Chinatown, including a new pagoda, street markets and golden lanterns.

The Prince of Wales' architectural foundation has released a detailed report on how to use fung shui to revamp the tiny, historic quarter.

The prince was invited to take part in the revamp by Westminster City Council, the borough where Chinatown is located.

The report, released last month by The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, recommends installing nine carved wooden dragons at nine entrances to London's Chinatown as a way to improve the chi, or life force, flowing through the district. They are also a way of increasing visibility for the district.

Other recommended Chinese touches include transforming barren Newport Place square at the eastern end into a Chinese palace garden. The report calls for tree planting to improve the air and adding a 'heaven's pool' of circulating water.

A new or improved pagoda for the square should be commissioned through links with the Beijing business community in order to showcase traditional Chinese craftsmanship, the report says. And a narrow, 300-year-old alley running off the square could be remodelled to resemble a Beijing hutong.

Gold or yellow Chinese lanterns should be installed to brighten up a street on the district's southern edge. To make the street more lively, the report recommends holding themed street markets.

When news of Prince Charles' interest in giving Chinatown a makeover were first reported this year, it was interpreted by some as a sign he wanted to smooth relations with Beijing. The heir to the throne has been known for uneasy relations with the communists.

But it's also likely that he's genuinely interested in helping improve Chinatown. The prince has a reputation as an outspoken proponent of traditional architecture and is critical of modern buildings.

The report quotes him as saying that his foundation will draw on Chinese and British craftsmen.