Build Back Bath


‘Beauty is a natural superiority.’ – Plato

Plato’s words resonate such potent and piercing truth, one imagines them chiseled into the Athens Parthenon under which he spoke them. But postmodernism can take even the most unyielding of truths and reflect them back on us as a liquid lie.

Postmodernist distortion now manifests itself in every discussion on aesthetics. Take, for instance, the subject of weight. The mythicised ‘anorexia pandemic’ – a largely middle class panic – is indulged by the metro media to an extraordinary degree; meanwhile, women’s lifestyle magazines menace us daily with depictions of the morbidly obese, posing as suggestively as their unsupple bodies can struggle to suggest, while what little remains of page space is filled with headlines assuring us of their rude health.

Postmodernists don’t merely wish to bluff a better hand than they were dealt, they wish us to adopt a different set of rules: one where a spade is never considered a spade. That fatuous refrain ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ may seem such an innocent and consoling lie as to be considered a white one, but even white lies have a tendency to bleed into something darker. Recently, this beauty distortion has dared to threaten even the grandeur of Georgian architecture.

‘Nobody’, said the late Roger Scruton, ‘would object to building the city of Bath again’. Appearing to take that as a direct challenge, Sadiq Khan managed to find such a nobody in Dinah Bornat. Not only does the anti-Georgian gorgon object to building another Bath, but thanks to Khan, she is in a position where her objection matters: the newly invented role of ‘Housing Design Advocate’.

On Georgian architecture, Miss Bornat had this to say: ‘Going so far as to define it as “beauty” is politically troubling. If beauty harks back to oppression we are on very dangerous ground.’ So, are we to believe that intangible ideas, however ugly, can have a corrupting effect on tangible beauty? This fallacy was addressed by the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant in 1790:

‘It would be laughable if a man who imagined anything to his own taste, thought to justify himself by saying: “This object (the house we see, the coat that person wears, the concert we hear, the poem submitted to our judgement) is beautiful for me.” For he must not call it beautiful if it merely pleases himself.’

To put it another way, one may regard Meghan Markle as a narcissist and arriviste, but the camera regards her beauty all the same. The little mermaid who found her voice only to lose it again when probed on her (un)truths. But even when left walleyed and gawping for words like a landed fish, Markle at least retains the glamour of a vinyl blow-up sex doll. It is only when, after searching for her lines, the hot air once again blows out of her.

On the subject of beauty ‘treading on dangerous ground’, how does Miss Bornat account for the phenomenon of serial killer groupies? When Richard Ramirez finally faced a courtroom, he did so flanked not by a baying mob, but by a clutter of coquettish women baying for his attention. That women their age had succumbed to his murderous rage didn’t seem to matter, only that he had a face – a beauty they had succumbed to. If murder isn’t enough to rob something of its beauty, then how can Miss Bornat’s colonialist babble hope to rob Georgian architecture of its manifest glory?

An ideal Britain would be a land of Bath Stone, panelled mahogany, and ceilings tall enough to house the reverberations of Jerusalem. Looking at Bornat’s Twitter feed, hers appears to be a one of sterile servility reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. When browsing her feed, one notices she has a habit of feverishly retweeting photos of children playing amidst brutalist architecture. If she considers brutalist architecture to be a more morally pure one, then why did she – as was recently pointed out to me – spend so many years living in a Victorian property of considerable value? I’m sure her living there was no expression of hypocrisy, but a solemn sacrifice. One can only imagine the pain of living in such a period property, all the while knowing each of its bricks are darkened by bigotry.

To get a further insight into the sinister imaginings of this Housing Design Advocate, one need only look to her tweet demanding London sunder itself from ‘Tory Britain.’ Thanks to the efforts of Bornat and her mirthless ilk (the citizen of nowhere type architects) London has the appearance of a capital trying to escape its culture; a mismatched muddle of glass and steel grows away from British soil like weeds in search of sun – only, progressives never care to ask what happens when we get too close to it.

If more regard were paid to what has passed us by on this indefinite journey of progress, then those driving it may come to realise Georgian architecture was the apex of our civilisation from which, if Miss Bornat’s wretched designs are anything to go by, we have fallen quite far indeed.

James Bembridge is Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.