The apology to Sir Roger

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The New Statesman magazine, a British rag, has apologized at last for using monkeyed quotes from an interview in April to defame Sir Roger Scruton, who lost an important government post as a result. Who knows whether Scruton would like to return as chairman of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, still run by the craven housing minister who sacked the conservative philosopher and architecture theorist virtually moments after the obviously bogus quotes emerged.

Read “An Apology for Thinking,” Scruton’s own eloquent description, in The Spectator, of how his words were purposely butchered by the deputy editor of the Statesman, George Eaton, who remains at his old post and, one may assume, unchastened. As usual, the Statesman’s deceit and media reports of it circulate widely but apologies, if they ever come, sink like a stone, read mainly by those already familiar with Scruton’s incapacity for thinking what he was wrongly accused of saying.

A rumor floated that Scruton’s replacement as chairman would be the head of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which is as staunchly modernist as the American Institute of Architects.  But, miracle of miracles, the post was filled, at least temporarily, by a very sensible person – Nicholas Boys Smith, head of Create Streets, an organization with what we here would consider a New Urbanist outlook.

Throwing caution to the wind, Boys Smith recently said, “Beauty should not be just a property of old buildings or protected landscapes but something we expect from new buildings, places and settlements,” adding, “We need to deliver beauty for everyone, not just the wealthy.”

No doubt the modernists, who were part of the drive to oust Scruton that went into high gear following his appointment, are out there looking for ways to assure Boys Smith as brief a tenure in his post as Scruton had. Maybe those words will be enough.

***

That should wrap up this succinct response to the latest turn in L’Affair Scruton, except to regret that it is also the latest turn in the politicization of architecture. The style wars – which will and should continue until beauty resumes its rightful place in the design of buildings and cities – have long shown signs of a division between conservative traditionalists and liberal modernists. This is unfortunate, because people of all stripes would benefit from a return to beauty in the civic arts. However, the tactics that were used to attack Roger Scruton were tactics of the left – ostracism – which are rarely seen on the right. Similar tactics are used by the architectural establishment to keep traditional architecture down, even though (and indeed because) it is preferred by most people.

Since Britain and America are democracies, choice in how architectural commissions are distributed should be more broadly based. Perhaps the fact that a powerful journal has been forced to apologize for maligning Sir Roger suggests that what the public thinks about architecture is a rising factor in how cities are built. No less than beauty, fairness has long been absent from the world of architecture. Time to bring it back.

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This cartoon was on top of the original version of this blog, but I switched it down to this spot because it seemed, on second thought, to poorly reflect the seriousness of the subject.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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3 Responses to The apology to Sir Roger

  1. John says:

    “Perhaps the fact that a powerful journal has been forced to apologize for maligning Sir Roger suggests that what the public thinks about architecture is a rising factor in how cities are built. ”

    I am afraid that huge interests of power are at play, globally, and without historical precedent (due to the possibilities of technology), they will keep on crushing and sidetracking with ever more vile and or sneeky subtle methods. The public, for those at the top are the worker ants which they need to build their tech-empire on (I know some at the top of the financial pyramid who think like that), they will attempt to turn events to work in their benefit (for instance, as alluded to in the article below, they will seize on the language and concepts as created by the opposition).
    The only final consolidation is derived from the facts of the opposition, that they are building something which is unsustainable (it is not only about architecture, but it involves the whole sphere of life), and that all support which is gained through indoctrination, selfish interests, excommunication, false narratives, false arguments, historical fraud, hijacking etc. cannot prevent the whole pumped up thing to come tumbling down at one point or another, which then unfortunately is the hard way of learning.

    Not that I am absolutely negative about it, but it makes no sense to give up what has been constructed during many decades, and what is connected to huge interests so easily.. It is not merely a style war…is it not merely some wrong road accidentally taken. It is a blatant deliberate ignoring of tradition and advancing scientific insights, though a lot of people involved are involved because of ignorance and being misled.

    A comparison could be made with another related sphere, the destructive effects of smartphones and social media, the effects on the brain, the destructive social effects, the destructive effects on the capacity of concentration, this could all have been known beforehand, varies studies are abound, but they have been pushing and funding it al along, because the interests at stake are huge, these are the same as in the area of architecture, city planning etc, the interest consisting in control of the minds of people in order to build empire.

    http://permaculture.org.au/2010/10/14/life-and-the-geometry-of-the-environment/

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  2. Eric Daum says:

    David, I hope you will refrain from casting the wars between Traditionalists and Modernists as a political battle between Conservatives and Liberals. You are well acquainted with many architects of a Traditional bent whose politics are quite liberal, myself included. Unethical tactics are certainly on display in abundance from conservatives.

    Like

    • Eric, of course it is not my desire to turn my blog into a political blog, and I expressed my regret at having to do so here. But the elephant in the room had to be at least minimally addressed. And yes, as I should have pointed out, there are many trads who are liberal and, no doubt, some conservatives who are mods (such as, maybe, Trump).

      Like

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