When Vanity Fair asked 52 architecture critics to name the five most important works of architecture completed since 1980, they named 132 different buildings. (You can view a slide show of the top 25 here.) Only one made it onto a majority of lists: Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (above). The second place finisher got only 10 votes. This fracturing of critical opinion is a sign of our times. Whereas in 1900 you showed your taste by admiring what everyone else admired, in our age you must be idiosyncractic in your tastes, whether we are talking about indie bands or buildings. On the other hand the buildings these experts like are not really diverse, any more than indie pop bands are. They all play with the forms and materials of modernism, rearranged in ways that distort the Bauhaus box without, it seems to me, really challenging its massive coldness. Consider the Seattle Central Library by Rem Koolhaas (below), which has a very weird shape but retains the glass walls and exposed beams of something by Mies Van der Rohe.
Or Sir Norman Foster's HSBC building in Hong Kong (below), which discards any notion of being a comfortable place to work in favor of creating vast spaces of monumental starkness, just like an office building by Frank Lloyd Wright or Philip Johnson.
This I would say is also characteristic of our age. In the art world the desire to be different leads, not to real creativity, but to endless minor variations on the same dominant themes; anything really distinctive is relegated to a tiny niche market, and since there is no niche market for major buildings, they are all fundamentally the same. We all want to do something different and leave the twentieth century behind, but we don't know what that something different should be. The option that nobody seems to consider is a new art that embraces humanity, domesticity, or natural beauty. Still captivated by the purity of form achieved in twentieth century architecture and painting, our artists have no interest in the sort of soft beauty that moves the average human soul.