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.