"Architecture used to be about beauty. Now it's just about money. What has changed? Well, everything, really, in three revolutions: social, theoretical, cultural. The social revolution occurred when democratic capitalism took money from the hands of a cultivated aristocracy and gave it first to the mercantile classes and then to the plebs (us). This fitted architecture with an entirely new client-class, which is really two classes -- the developers who build, and the people who buy. Neither of them is especially interested in architecture, urbanism or the making of place. [...]- Elizabeth Farrelly in Blubberland (MIT Press, 2008).
The second revolution was, if not theory-led, at least theory-coated. In the mid-twentieth century, design-meisters Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius jointly marched architecture towards an engineering aesthetic of bare functionalism. That they did not practice their creed made their preachings no less effective, and led, inevitably, to a wholesale burning of the books. Which was the third revolution. The people are not the only ones who know what they like but can't get there. In schools and academies across the planet, ignorance of the ancient (or indeed, modern) canons of beauty is profound. Which is not to argue that beauty as a rule thing. It's more that old tenet that knowing the rules is especially essential for those who would break them.
The problem, therefore, is not just a lack of clients-with-taste-and-money, though that is real enough. It's that the knowledge itself is no longer architecture's dilly-bag. Beauty has become an embarrassment never to be discussed outside those inner-sanctum slide-nights when architects warm their hands against the tiny flame that flickers now at the profession's core, blowing protectively on the coals lest the chill winds of commerce extinguish the flame forever."