Contemporary architects, in common with many writers subsequent to the modernist revolution, seem deliberately to affront the passerby with their independence of the need to respect the interests of the viewer. The austere building is deliberately vile, and boasts of its aggressive economy, as if the inhabiting institution or company were to say "We are rich but won't spend money on your feelings." It also declares that the views of neighbours, their vistas and their opinions, have no weight for those in that building. By contrast the decorated building is generous, and grants that its builders and residents are concerned, if only a little, with what others think. Such a considerate structure offers intricate surfaces, and pointless swags of leaves and flowers to entertain the mind of the external inspector, a delight not available to those within the structure.

Curiously, this distinction makes official buildings of the past very much less intimidating, however impressive they may be. Think of the Banqueting House, or the Royal Courts of Justice, or the gates of Nanzen-ji. These structures certainly give evidence of power, and were presumably designed for such a purpose. A provincial priest visiting the Kyoto headquarters would be delighted to think that "This is us!", or a little fearful ("This is them"), depending on whether he felt welcome or not. However, these buildings are implicit with an acknowledgement that the viewer's opinions are not without value. After all, the building seeks to persuade and influence. By contrast the sheer-sided and angular concrete structure of a modern British Crown Court, for example, suggests, at least to me, a deliberately anonymous, harsh and indifferent power quite independent of the individual standing before it, rather than, as one might hope, an institution aware that its being and its authority are constituted from the respect of a supporting population.

Contemporary architects have a very low reputation with the general public, a hostility that the architects themselves think of as being only a reactionary reluctance to accept the new. However, it seems to me more likely that the man in the street is revolted by the architectural profession's servile complicity with the scornful corporate or bureaucratic power that so deliberately turns its back on the neighbouring society. Of course, it is possible to like brutalists buildings, but the pleasure that architectural critics take in such structures is not dissimilar, in my view, to the delight of the listener stretching out their arms to salute the Tyrant Singer (discussed in earlier piece here). The viewer projects themselves into the position of the independent autocrat and finds freedom in the implied domination of others. That is a loathesome aesthetic, and deserves our contempt.