What is worse is that architects use up vast amounts of precious resources to build something entirely new, only to see the building change its uses almost as soon as – or sometimes even before – it is finished. The thirst for the new, the perfect, the orderly winds up giving us inflexible buildings that most people experience as alien from their daily lives.
Let's not reach for the sky but dig. Let's not use the orders in a correct manner but unfold the land. Let's not construct utopia but make beauty right here and now. Let's not build for the ages, but reshape what is already there.
This is the approach being taken by a variety of architects around the world. Instead of placing abstract boxes on a site architects more often than not level, these designers are building either in the ground or just above it, replacing the territory they use up with new open space. These 'landscrapers' stand in contrast to the latest phallic thrusts of the world's leading architects, which are so gloriously on display in the Venice Biennale. Landscrapers try to preserve and express the ground. They use resources in a thoughtful manner and are energy-efficient. They are also more appropriate for an age in which we have learned to question vaunting ambition and aspire to a critical awareness of where and who we are.
This approach would seem especially appropriate after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Instead of puffing ourselves up and building something even taller back again, we should find ways of making something so beautiful, so strong, and so much part of the very fabric of the city of New York that it will prove the absolute necessity of that place.
That will be the final revenge of architecture – the stone come upon in the middle of the forest that Adolf Loos said was the only true form of that art.
Aaron Betsky is director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute. His book Landscrapers is published this month by Thames and Hudson, priced £29.95.