In “Why Beauty Matters,” Roger Scruton argues that a cult of beauty that dominated Western civilization for two thousand years was replaced by a cult of ugliness in the twentieth century. Originality came to be considered key, and ugliness came to dominate language, music, manners and architecture.
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Scruton suggests that in losing beauty, the meaning of life is lost. “Philosophers have argued that through the pursuit of beauty we shape the world as a home. We come to understand our own nature as spiritual beings.”
Beauty is not subjective, but a universal human need. It can redeem the chaos, suffering and sorrows of life in the joyful affirmation of beauty. The creative and skillful artist can transform the real in the light of the ideal.
A mistake is made in prioritizing the useful over the merely beautiful because, particularly in architecture, beauty is useful. A merely functional building that is ugly is a place that no one wants to work in or live in, if given a choice. Beautiful buildings will always be valued and inspire people to preserve them. Brutalism, the architecture of exposed raw concrete buildings, and glass walled eyesores cause people to eagerly look forward to their demolition.