Why Does Modern Architecture Look So Bad

Modern architecture is ubiquitous in cities around the world, from skyscrapers to shopping malls and from office blocks to stadiums. But recently, it has been criticised for its blandness and lack of character. So why does modern architecture look so bad?

The primary answer to this lies in the age-old adage that ‘form follows function’. In other words, modern architecture is designed with certain goals and uses in mind, – typically to be efficient, cost-effective and visually unobjectionable. This means that the aesthetic aspect of the architecture is often overlooked – or, worse still, actively ignored – in favour of an austere, utilitarian approach.

However, some experts believe that modern architecture doesn’t have to be boring or banal. Robert Adams, professor of architecture at the University of Southern California, says “It isn’t necessary for modern architecture to be dull – there are several ways to imbue it with appealing shapes, colours and textures. This is achieved by devoting time to design, getting creative and looking at the environment from a user’s perspective”.

In any case, it seems that there is no single answer to the question “Why does modern architecture look so bad?” In a world where commercial interests, technological advances and the decentralization of power all play a role, it becomes increasingly difficult to pin down exactly why certain architectural styles become popular while others fall into obscurity.

A second factor which has played a major role in the blandness of modern architecture is the influence of globalism. With the rise of internet-based communication and the dawn of the global village, people and products from all parts of the world can now find their way into local markets. This has led to some degree of homogenization in design, as architects across the globe draw inspiration from the same sources.

But one of the major pitfalls of modern architectural design is its lack of connection with the local community. Many modern buildings are designed without taking into account the local culture and environment, resulting in a feeling of artificiality and disconnection with the surrounding environment.

Finally, it is also important to consider the role of technology in modern architectural design. Computers, CAD programs, and 3D printing technology have all played a part in making people more aware of what is possible in the field of design, but they have also had a tendency to create an environment of generic, ‘one size fits all’ designs.

Financial Aspects

In addition to their impact on how buildings look, modern technologies are also altering the financial aspects of building projects. As the cost of construction materials decreases, architects have been able to cut back on the amount of labor that is necessary for a successful build, resulting in a steady stream of cheaper-but-less-convincing building projects.

Conversely, the cost of modern building materials has skyrocketed in recent years. This has been compounded by the global slump in oil prices, making the development of large-scale projects virtually impossible for many countries. As a result, building projects have had to be scaled back, resulting in a trend towards simpler, more economical designs.

Finally, the globalisation of the construction industry has meant that global architects are often battling against each other to come up with the most cost-effective designs. This has created an environment in which ideas and innovation are often sacrificed in favour of lower costs and simpler designs.

Value of Aesthetics

It is also important to note that aesthetics are not the only factor that can determine the success of a modern building project. In fact, there are many aspects to consider when deciding whether or not a building is “good” – safety, sustainability, accessibility and the integration of community activities are all vital considerations.

However, the value of aesthetics can not be underestimated. If a building looks good and is attractive to potential customers, it is more likely to be successful. David Chipperfield, a renowned British architect, puts it succinctly “If a building is to become a part of the cityscape it must be attractive as well as practical.”

This means that modern architecture must strike a balance between form and function. On the one hand, architects must focus on the practical aspects of design – safety, cost, sustainability and modern technologies. But on the other, they must also pay attention to the aesthetic value of their designs, or risk creating bland, characterless buildings.


Ultimately, the answer to the question “why does modern architecture look so bad?” is complex and multi-faceted. On the one hand, form must follow function and cost-effectiveness is key, but on the other, modern architecture must also take into account aesthetics. Although this balance is difficult to achieve, it is essential if we are to create buildings that are both functional and pleasing to look at.

Modern Technology’s Influence

Modern technology has played a major role in influencing how we create and design buildings. CAD (Computer Aided Design) programmes and 3D printing technologies have enhanced the power of architects to conceive, design and construct impressive structures.

However, the reliance on technology can also lead to a certain amount of uniformity in modern architecture. As architects around the world draw inspiration from the same sources and use the same technological tools, it can lead to designs that lack individuality or creativity.

One way to overcome this uniformity is to embrace the individuality of each architect and the local context of a project. As David Chipperfield puts it “Every building should be tailored to its specific site and context, this demands personal engagement and ingenuity.”

By encouraging architects to listen to the voices of the local community and to incorporate contextual elements into their design, modern buildings will be able to stand out from the crowd and become memorable, iconic structures that are in harmony with the natural landscape.

Building Laws and Regulations

No discussion of modern architecture is complete without mentioning the role of laws and regulations. In many countries, the passage of strict building codes and regulations has resulted in the creation of buildings that are safe and structurally sound, but lack any real character or creativity.

However, it is possible to create modern buildings that are both aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound. Building designs can be tweaked to include elements of organic architecture, while structural elements can be engineered to take into account the natural environment and local culture.

To ensure that modern buildings can truly become a part of their local environment, it is important to ensure that building regulations allow for creativity and innovation. By striking the right balance between safety and creativity, architects can create structures that are both safe and inspiring.

The Role of Architects

As is often the case, the success of modern architecture projects will depend largely on the skills of the architects involved. Every architect approaches a project with a unique set of influences and an individual way of seeing the world.

In order to ensure the success of modern buildings, it is essential that architects be given the opportunity to express their own unique viewpoints and styles. This is why it is important to give architects the freedom to innovate and experiment, while still following established building regulations.

By creating an environment in which architects can freely express their ideas, modern buildings can go beyond the utilitarian designs of the past and become inspiring works of art that reflect the vision of the architect and the spirit of the local context.

The Importance of Education

Ultimately, the success of modern architecture projects will depend on the level of education that is available for aspiring architects. By making sure that architects have access to the latest technologies and techniques, it will be easier for them to come up with creative and innovative designs that are attractive and in tune with the local environment.

At the same time, it is also important to provide architects with the necessary resources to create thoughtful and inspiring designs. This means making sure that they have access to high quality materials, as well as knowledge and experience of local cultures and environmental concerns.

By educating architects in all aspects of modern architecture, it will become easier for them to create buildings that are both aesthetically pleasing and in harmony with their local context.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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