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Scruton: No architects on beauty commission as they have ‘vested interests’


Roger Scruton has said no architects were appointed to the government’s Building Better Building Beautiful Commission because they have ‘vested interests’

Speaking to the AJ at the launch of a design conference in Birmingham yesterday evening (13 February), the commission’s chair said architects were ‘only interested in building their stuff’ and not necessarily what the public wanted.

However, Scruton pointed out that the commission did have architectural advisers, adding: ‘I’m an architect – I built my garden shed, and it fits in beautifully.’

The new commissioners, announced on Wednesday, include landscape architect Kim Wilkie, Nicholas Boys Smith of lobby group Create Streets, chair of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) Mary Parsons, and Gail Mayhew, a property consultant.

Among the commission’s nine ‘specialist advisers’ are former RIBA president Sunand Prasad and AHMM’s Paul Monaghan.

Asked whether the other commissioners might also have vested interests, Scruton said: ‘Everyone has a vested interest. The problem is architecture. People have not liked what is being built; we know that. That’s the reason why the commission exists.

‘The fact is we’ve done quite a lot of research on what people like and what people don’t like. They don’t like, on the whole, the standard architect types of modern architecture. 

‘If we [the commission] come to the conclusion we’re wrong, we’ll have to change our stance.’

The philosopher was speaking at the launch event for the Ministry for Housing’s Better Design for Better Places conference at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the city centre.

Interviewed by Guardian journalist Gaby Hinsliff at the top of a staircase in one of the exhibition spaces, Scruton said beautiful buildings would last because they can change their use over time.

He said beauty was ‘extremely hard’ to define, adding: ‘If the government had a reason for appointing a notorious philosopher as the chair of this commission rather than a practising architect it is because this is the kind of thing philosophers think about.’

The Ministry for Housing has been approached for comment.


Readers' comments (18)

  • Frank Zappa in Joe’s Garage. (not shed!)

    “This is the central Scrutoniser, the red zone is for loading and unloading only” Let’s see what he and all the others have in their luggage. If it’s just a colourless liquid, it might not make it out of the hold. If it’s useful, we can use it. The inflight magazine is usually waffle and pretty pictures, don’t look at it!

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  • So essentially nothing changes.... well done Beauty Commission, well done Roger Scruton.... you will surely be given a lifelong pension for achieving the Beauty Commission's main goal I my opinion, so quickly, perhaps this pension will allow you to keep closer to your own overstated moral imperatives... rather than, as reported, letting the finer things determine your choices.

    The Government and status quo must be overjoyed.... Architects will continue to appear to have no real voice ….. Roger Scruton more clearly than others will know that Architects in practice will continue to design the only memorable edifices of our culture.

    I think Roger's shed is representative somehow of this Beauty Commission and I hope it will be remembered long after its maker and he is judged by it, so perhaps it is Architecture.

    Roger "The Shed" Scruton and the Shed Commission sounds about right.

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  • I choked on my sandwich as I read:
    “However, Scruton pointed out that the commission did have architectural advisers, adding: ‘I’m an architect – I built my garden shed, and it fits in beautifully.’”
    “The problem is architecture. People have not liked what is being built; we know that”.
    Roger Scruton an architect???
    I hope ARB prosecute this coconut for claiming to be an architect.
    And I know a lot of people who experience and love buildings designed by many of today’s superb architects….

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  • Daniel Lacey

    He suggested that he's an architect because he built a garden shed and got exactly the response expected. More talk over him using the 'a' word, no talk about the job comparison to designing a shed.

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  • Mr Scruton is a 'political philosopher and a writer'.

    There is a 'property consultant' on the commission. Of course, they have no 'vested interests' at all. An architect cannot design good architecture if they are not even appointed, which is why the country is covered in cheap, hideous and sterile housing estates.

    There. I have just philosophised politically and written this, so this makes me just as qualified as Mr Scruton. Can I have the commissioner's job and all the perks please?

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  • Industry Professional

    Having raised the matter of Mr Scruton's remarks with the ARB, I have received the following response:

    "We can confirm that Sir Roger Scruton is not a registered architect, however as he is not using the title in the course of business or practice, we will not be investigating this matter. Use of the title in these circumstances is unlikely to be a breach of the law, and we are sufficiently reassured that he is not purporting to be an ‘architect’ in a professional capacity or that a member of the public would be misled into engaging him to complete a project.



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  • The ARB is clearly a useless spineless organisation only interested in going after easy pickings that don't have politically powerful friends.

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  • Daniel Lacey

    Either that or they know when a tongue is firmly planted in a cheek.

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