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Profession hits back at sculptor’s claim that ‘architects are like ISIS’

Alexander stoddart by Daniel Livingstone

Scottish architects have described comments by sculptor Alexander Stoddart comparing the profession to ISIS as ‘silly’ and ‘absurd’

Stoddart, who is the Queen’s sculptor in Scotland, was quoted as saying that, like the terrorist group, Modernist architects were devoted to ‘consistent and wilful desecration’ of places of peace and harmony. 

He highlighted Hoskins Architects’ recent proposal to convert Thomas Hamilton’s Grade A-listed Royal High School, in Edinburgh, into a 147-room hotel (see AJ 22.03.16).

But architects hit back this week, with Glasgow-based Alan Dunlop saying Stoddart had gone too far in his comments.

‘We architects are used to criticism, and some of it is fair,’ Dunlop said. ‘Recent development proposals for Edinburgh, particularly those within the world heritage city have certainly been controversial, as I would contend good architecture often is.

‘Some conservationists are angered, but these recent comments are beyond the pale.

‘It is right that we should talk about redevelopment in our cities, and respect place and heritage, but we should stay clear of absurdities and try to show mutual respect.’

RIAS secretary and treasurer Neil Baxter said: ‘Most of the Scottish press has chosen to ignore Sandy Stoddart’s comments. His language was intemperate and his choice of analogy so ill considered as to undermine his whole argument and render his diatribe simply silly.’

Stoddart was quoted in The Scotsman as saying: ‘Modernism is a branch phenomenon of ISIS.

’Peace and rest are promulgated by Classical buildings. Modernism, on the other hand, likes conflict and action. Like all dynamic creeds, it likes nothing better than a fire in a planned city.’



Hoskins Architects’ plans to convert Thomas Hamilton’s Grade A-listed Royal High School into a 147-room hotel


Readers' comments (4)

  • Was he sober?

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  • Probably. Stoddart is an artist used to hyperbole and he has a long history of railing against modernism and modern architecture in defence of classicism.

    Oddly, his bizarre claims about architects being like a death cult and wilful destroyers of our built heritage did not appear to raise an eyebrow from Edinburgh World Heritage at the unveiling of his latest creation, a bronze sculpture of William Henry Playfair, outside the National Museum of Scotland.

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  • A rather silly comment from a sculptor whose works cry out for traffic cones on their heads.

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  • Perhaps taking a step back the question is when do architects actively engage and collaborate with sculptors. And the answer..?.......................................rarely.

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