Scrutonizing His Record

Controversial conservative architectural commentator Sir Roger Scruton dies

Sir Roger Scruton has died aged 75. Image: Scruton lecturing in Budapest. (Elekes Andor/Wikicommons)

Sir Roger Scruton has passed away at the age of 75. Scruton, former chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful housing commission in the U.K., died of cancer on Sunday, January 12 after a six-month battle with the disease.

Scruton was born in February 1944 and studied at Cambridge. According to an interview with the Guardian, his conservative political leanings emerged when in Paris during the 1968 student protests, which he viewed as an “unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans” professing “ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook.”

His career traced many ups and downs and was not without controversy. In 2016 he was knighted for his services to philosophy, teaching, and public education; two years later he became a housing adviser only to be fired one year into the job amid alleged racist comments said while speaking to the New Statesman. Scruton was reappointed, however, after it was realized his comments were taken out of context and misrepresented.

As Chair of the commission, Scruton was accused of re-igniting architectural style wars, fueled by his loathing of modernism and penchant to classicism. In April 2018, as AN’s reported, Scruton suggested that one of the 9/11 hijackers, who had studied architecture in Hamburg, was “taking revenge on an architectural practice which had been introduced into the Middle East by Le Corbusier.”

In 1982, Scruton launched the Salisbury Review, a journal promoting and celebrating conservatism for which he was the founding editor. Later, he visited dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia as part of a series of excursions where he smuggled across books, supported banned artists, and provided courses in subjects suppressed by authorities. He was eventually caught, however, being detained in Brno in 1985 before being kicked out and banned from the country.

Never one to stay out of trouble, Scruton was sued by the Pet Shop Boys after he wrongly said in his book, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Pop Culture, that the band’s songs should be credited to sound engineers rather than them. In another book, On Hunting, he also discussed his passion for fox hunting. In a 2001 article for New York’s conservative City Journal magazine, Scruton claimed that being gay was just as bad as smoking and knocked 10 years off of the lives of LGBTQ individuals. Scruton had also taken fire for his close association with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and over comments many interpreted as antisemitic and Islamaphobic.



“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sir Roger Scruton, FBA, FRSL. Beloved husband of Sophie, adored father to Sam and Lucy and treasured brother of Elizabeth and Andrea, he died peacefully on Sunday 12th January,” read a statement on his own website, posted on Sunday. “His family are hugely proud of him and of all his achievements.”

Tributes have also come in from U.K. architects and the political sphere. “Deeply sorry to learn of the death of Sir Roger Scruton. His work on building more beautifully, submitted recently to my department, will proceed and stand part of his unusually rich legacy,” tweeted Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government Robert Jenrick. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said: “RIP Sir Roger Scruton. We have lost the greatest modern conservative thinker—who not only had the guts to say what he thought but said it beautifully.”

Robert Adam, director of ADAM Architecture, a firm which specializes in classical and traditional architecture and urban design, told the Architects’ Journal, “[Scruton] was always prepared to argue a point in a balanced and sensible manner but was often met with prejudice and hysteria. As a philosopher, he understood that people would have different views and that this was not a matter for opprobrium but for debate. He was a great thinker and a great author and his work will have a lasting legacy but, for me, it is the principle of reasoned and courteous debate, without personal acrimony, with those with whom you disagree, that will live on.”

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