Authentic architecture with deep feeling has become almost impossible

In traditional society, building was almost always something that stood for human value, that raised life to its greatest possible heights, that supported a spiritual and meaningful conception of human existence.

Now, instead, too many architects rub their hands cynically, foisting images on the public, creating works which are not friendly to people, or to the human spirit, but are friendly to the developers who make huge profits from these buildings and which do much to bolster those architects with financially rewarding glossy images in magazines.

Contemporary architecture has become ugly and ego-driven, banal and pretentious. This is caused by new relations between time, money, labor, and materials, making the real things almost impossible.

Building for ego and success is incentivized, while building for humane and social causes is not a prestigious affair.

Architects are not to blame for all of this, but they share partial responsibility.

Parallels to the software industry

In comparison with the software industry, I see a strong parallel and an important difference: what’s similar is that the larger organization of how and why we construct software — the business models and development methodologies — has also set incentives for software to be terrible, unfriendly to its users, and loaded with bias and unintended consequences. I’m not sure if the ultimate reason for that is also ego, which could be, or if this is the part that’s slightly different.

I don’t think we have a star cult in tech, at least not for engineers. There is a lot of that for founders and business owners in the VC startup scene for sure.

Clearly, it’s not all the fault of us software engineers, but many of us stand by and play our role in it too, just like architects.

Since we all ultimately need to put food on the table, most of us are complicit and avoid scrutinizing the situation too closely to prevent uncomfortable questions. Some of us struggle with their conscience. But it is almost impossible for a single individual to create meaningful change.

Zooming out further, the same is true for teaching, nursing, social work, etc. This is a deeply-rooted social problem, especially visible in the US today, but prevalent in most western societies. Of course, it affects the tech industry too.

I am shocked how visible the parallels are. This is a huge societal issue that goes far beyond architecture and software.

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/Preface/1 Our confusion in architecture#

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