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Reaction to Scruton sacking: ‘It was foreseeable this ludicrous appointment would end badly’

Roger scruton policy exchange classicism

The profession has been quick to react to news that outspoken traditionalist Roger Scruton has been fired as chair of the government’s Building Better Building Beautiful Commission

Tamsie Thomson, director of the London Festival of Architecture
’Time-wasting and division seems to be the Government’s stock in trade, and it was entirely foreseeable that the ludicrous appointment of Roger Scruton would end badly. Our housing crisis is very real and very pressing, and the Building Better Building Beautiful agenda was flawed from the outset thanks to its narrow focus on subjective notions of beauty.

’As the Mayor of London’s design advocates demonstrate, there’s no shortage of outstanding people with great ideas who can help find ways to resolve the housing crisis, and it’s time central Government turned away from its trite approach and embraced clear and progressive thinking.’

Ben Derbyshire, RIBA President
’Roger Scruton’s comments were completely unacceptable and it was right for the government to dismiss him as chairman of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission. At RIBA we also argue for better building quality but our doubts about the impartiality of this commission were clearly justified. Time and effort has been wasted and we should now move on from stylistic obsessions to the issues that lie at the heart of solving the housing crisis.

We should now move on from stylistic obsessions

’The government must focus on the real priority here: ensuring that all communities benefit from high quality homes and well-designed neighbourhoods.

Chris Brown, founder and executive chair of Igloo
‘The task is more important than the personalities. The Commission needs a strong, transparently appointed, chair and I suspect that there will be many more candidates this time around.’

Angela Brady, former RIBA President and co-founder of Brady Mallalieu Architects
’May Scruton’s replacement be a knowledgeable competent architect with housing expertise, who champions new ways of providing a rich and diverse choice of housing options and who encourages innovation and creativity in great design and place making. There are plenty of creative design champions who can really make a difference and who listen and understand to what the real need in housing is and how it can be promoted and met, Time for change. Time to get someone who can really make a difference.’

Maggie Mullan, principal of Maggie Mullan Architects
’It’s the Trump effect . Whatever he is reading (and believing) is horrifying and incendiary. He doesn’t warrant the oxygen of publicity in any case.’

Tim Abrahams, architecture writer and critic
’This has been a totally unedifying spectacle on both sides. While Scruton had little to add to the debate on urbanism - seemingly determined to repeat the arguments of 40 years ago and riff on other favourite subject outside architecture - those who have relentlessly attacked him aren’t much interested in the truth either, but getting soundbites on George Soros.

This has been a totally unedifying spectacle on both sides

’In the end, he failed to provide the intellectual credibility that Brokenshire’s gambit to up housing figures in the south east required.

Alan Dempsey, of Nex Architecture
’I am delighted to hear this news. Roger Scruton’s views on cultural diversity are as antiquated and redundant as his views on architecture.’

Biba Dow, director of Dow Jones Architects
’It is hard to see how a commission into something as abstract as beauty could really operate on any other level other than personal taste and prejudice, and Roger Scruton has exposed his weaknesses here.

The ambition to make wonderful places is a great one, but I hope the commission will shift its emphasis towards raising standards that explore the depth and resilience of our cities, like quality, texture and diversity.’

Meredith Bowles, founder of Mole Architects
’There’s a slim chance that the Commission might give a report to the Government that turns the question on its head, and addresses the real impediments to good quality housing. There are some excellent advisors to the Commission, any one of which could take the work undertaken to date and shape it to a meaningful conclusion.’

Peter Barber, of Peter Barber Architects
’Well I’m Scruton intolerant…. it’s Scruton free for me.’

Jonny Anstead, founding director of TOWN
’The quality of the UK’s built environment remains in huge need of improvement. Hopefully this will be an opportunity for government to rethink how it can best work with architects, developers and communities to help make this happen.’

Piers Taylor, of Invisible Studio
’Other than Jacob Rees Mogg, it is hard to think of anyone more out of tune with their times than Roger Scruton. Pale, male and stale to the point of almost decomposition, Scruton was appointed by the government to a role for which he had absolutely no qualification. While he might have written a book on the abstract philosophy of aesthetics, he had absolutely nothing to contribute to public office and the debate around better housing and building delivery.

He had absolutely nothing to contribute to public office

This government’s intrinsic and self-identified fear of experts and seeming desire to go backwards, fast, does not instil one with any confidence that anyone with anything tangible to offer might be appointed to replace Scruton. Goodbye, Roger - you won’t be missed.’

Luke Tozer of Pitman Tozer Architects
’A political appointee needs to be aware of the context in which they operate, in the same way a government needs to be aware of firmly held and previously expressed views before appointing someone. Both are to blame.

Given wider issues in government just now, this must rank in the ‘frankly who cares’ category of things they’re worrying about. Which must be a concern for anyone new taking up the helm.

While it appeared from a recent Architecture Foundation building tour and discussion that the commission has a sincere desire to engage and to help to understand why so much of what is built is not worthy of being called beautiful, I have two central concerns: making the connection between beauty and local acceptance of proposals in advance is a tenuous theoretical proposition fraught with practical difficulties; getting the government to come up with meaningful legislation on this is even more problematic.

I fear that it is missing the point that addressing the housing crisis and building places that people value for generations to come, that are ‘beautiful’, requires a level of leadership and investment in skills and infrastructure at local authority level with joined up government so far beyond the realms of this current shambles that this commission is sowing well intentioned seeds on stony ground.

It’s an unwelcome distraction from the pressing issue of the day: the affordable housing crisis. A government of any flavour that ignores the need to invest for the future in the built environment through a comprehensive subsidised programme of house building at local and national level is doomed to leave it unsolved for this generation.’


Readers' comments (4)

  • Gordon  Gibb

    I am pleased to see Scruton gone, after wrongfully calling himself an architect and now after his non-inclusive behaviour. Of course the whole appointment and ideaology behind it were farcical, which is a not unknown position for this government. What I don't understand is why the writer and some of the correspondents go on to talk about London. The coverage of this post was supposed to be UK wide (another ridiculous scenario: can you imagine Scruton telling an architect in Glasgow how to make things pretty there?). So I ask again. Why is anyone talking about London? Are we not clever enough to know when to bypass parochialism?

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  • I second all of Gordon Gibb's comments. Confusion in government is nothing new but this appointment must be one of the best examples.

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  • Why are we talking about London? Because it's London first, and everywhere else can go to the wall.

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  • Yes, I particularly agree with Angela and Piers, added to this his particular view of architects - you can become one easily you know- you just need to build yourself a shed, and they couldn't possibly become advisors or commissioners because they are too partisan?

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