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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)

  • David Nossiter

    Architects are people as well, of course.

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  • I'll have a go at being a commissioner! ........I promise not to be like an architect!

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  • Oh I remember all of this from the eighties
    Now off to check to see if Mr Scruton is registered with the ARB now that he’s calling himself an architect

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  • That would be the 'Architects' Vested Interests Registration Board', would it?

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  • Architects idea of beauty is different from everyone else's.

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  • It's good that Roger Scruton is clear from any 'vested interests' otherwise the entire commission might be compromised.

    Also, should the ARB be investigating his description of himself, within a professional setting, as an 'architect'...couldn't find his name on the register so he might be in breach of Section 21 of The Architects Act 1997.

    Glad to know that there is at least one 'architect' heading up the commission!

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  • There's only one word to describe Mr Scruton's highly partial and distorted view of construction industry: "Trumpian".

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  • Gordon  Gibb

    Quoting from the Architects Registration Board website:

    “Architects are proud of their title, and do not want to see it used either to mislead the public or in a way that could damage their professional reputation.”

    Under Section 20 of the Architects Act 1997, the title ‘architect’ is protected. It can only be used in business or practice by someone who has had the education, training and experience needed to become an architect, and who is registered with the ARB. The Act protects the public from dishonest individuals who deliberately mislead people by calling themselves something they’re not. ARB advise that they restrict actions to those against persons who may lead one into thinking their role had something to do with the design and construction of buildings.

    In this case Mr Roger Scruton holds himself out to be an architect, in the context of architectural design and the construction of buildings, and indicates that there need not be architects involved in the very important and high profile process in which he is engaged because he is one, using the words, "I am an architect".

    The relevant Wikipedia page states:
    Sir Roger Vernon Scruton FBA FRSL (/ˈskruːtən/; born 27 February 1944) is an English philosopher and writer who specialises in aesthetics and political philosophy, particularly in the furtherance of traditionalist conservative views.

    The above indicates no engagement in architectural education and the ARB register confirms that Mr Roger Scruton is not an architect. Therefore in my view there is cause to believe that he may be found guilty of a criminal offence under the Act.

    In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, ARB will prosecute in the magistrates’ courts. ARB apply two tests before deciding upon whether to prosecute, which are evidence and public interest. In this instance there is recorded evidence and I would suggest that there is a strong public interest in preventing the profession being brought into disrepute.

    I am making a complaint to the Architects Registration Board asking the Registrar to investigate the misuse of the title "architect" by Mr Scruton. Should you wish to do the same, the link to the be followed is: https://title-complaints.arb.org.uk/

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  • I'm a registered architect and I actually agree with him that architects are brainwashed through the education system into worshipping at the teat of Corbusier. You are slowly taught that ornament is sinful and that modernism is good and proper.

    But all these articles miss the biggest factor in all of this - developers. Developers want cheap and quick. So architects design modernist shoeboxes. If developers paid for corinthian columns and high ceilings and bespoke statues and art then architects would design that. The real enemy of beauty in architecture is the ceaseless drive for shareholder dividends, the profit motive of the developer.

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  • Chris Roche

    Scruton has proven himself to be unfit to lead this commission. He knows the law, yet has chosen to flaunt it for political reasons, by calling himself an Architect. No one should regard themselves above the Law. His views show extreme prejudice towards the profession of Architecture, and therefore lacking the perspective required to come to informed, critical opinion. ARB should take action and RIBA should seek his removal from office.

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