There is a world of difference between building designs and designing buildings. Western architecture has become obsessed with the former. This is evident in the number of real buildings that aspire to look like architectural models. This is evident in the number of architectural 'photographs' which are barely distinguishable from digital renders. There is an emerging fetish in the architectural trade such that the real world look like the imagined one. A virtual fetish, as in a fetish of the virtual. The value of this cannot be ... overestimated.
If buildings need to be interesting, this presumes general boredom as an existing precondition. That is a problem for a number of reasons. Notwithstanding the larger cultural concern, this treats buildings like media, which is ... weird.
1) On the one hand, there is a minimal effect. This is popular today. It has "clean lines," is pure, is quiet, etc. But it conceals—or reveals, depending on one's point of view—a maximum of artifice. Success depends on control; accident is error; time and weather severely unkind. This kind of minimalism is rarely more than clever, although brilliant examples exist.
2) On the other hand there is a minimal intentionality. Beauty is accomplished in a single gesture, without adjustment, critique or refinement. The result is no great act of will, but blossoms instead in its absence. To channel this sort of energy similarly requires a massive investment, not toward concealing the artifice (willfulness) but rather in the mastery of technique. Success depends on patience; accident is everything; the passage of time, sacred. This kind of beauty can be hard to recognize, and easy to cheat.
Recently I have heard the "builder aesthetic" derided a number of times. I struggle to understand both the force and the target of the critique.
Is the "builder aesthetic" anything other than the absence of a high degree of intentionality and control? If so, what is the value of intentionality and control?
"Builders" make bad buildings. So do architects. I suspect it would be difficult to correlate, let alone find a causal connection, between the evidence of TOTAL control and whatever we might qualify as "good."
Is less control better, then? I think so, but the nuance is everything, here.
The idea that culture progresses (toward) is problematic. I suspect this represents more of a desire to progress than anything else. This position probably underlies most technologic notions of society that prevail today, despite its rejection in postmodern intellectual circles decades ago. I suspect digital micro tech / machine learning / massive cloud data storage has rekindled the fire—?
If one rejects the idea of a telos, novelty becomes nothing more than an aberrance. In other words, what is new by no means marks a transition toward something better. It is simply a manifestation of otherness, and evidence of the creative will toward freedom.
There is a sense, however, that history retroactively validates the trends which have prevailed. A led to B led to C; because C is, then A was good. This is only a valid ethical argument if one assumes the telos.