Why is this stuff so ubiquitous? A lot has been written and said about this kind of design, its geometry, contextualism and novelty. I am maybe not so interested in those aspects of these designs, but rather their remarkable sameness. Their individual designs are more or less good or bad, but their hold on international, global architecture is matched maybe by only blob-itecture:
and again, a remarkable sameness about these designs. Or maybe again, the masses of glittering towers planned and built around the world (or at least in the cheesy rendering world):
So, what do these designs say about our architecture culture or the built environment? Well, glass must be cheap, and place and space are minor concerns compared with image and supposed novelty. Monuments to ego, these buildings are all trying to out do each other in their magnificence and astounding creativity. That in the end they all come out looking a lot alike is never really questioned.
These kinds of buildings have always had a major role in the story of architecture. They are in a sense extreme examples of the playing out of an architectural language. However, I think we quickly become tired of these buildings, their one trick pony broken down. And less we forget:
the 'astounding' are often quickly demolished. These New York buildings were all the most magnificent architecture of their day and are all demolished today. They too are a bit generic in their use (and abuse) of an architectural language and, they also were largely about the use of that language. So, beyond 'modern' or 'traditional' or 'victorian' or any other architectural language, the sameness of these buildings lies in their intent to be "magnificent".
Architecture, good architecture that is, is much more than a language, metaphorically or otherwise. It should be about use and place and meaning and so many other things beyond "Wow!".
(Historic New York demolished building photos from Nathan Silver's Lost New York)