As years go by, I am more and more interested - and often baffled - by the obsession of individuals and certain companies and organisation to build buildings that are not enjoyable not particularly fit for purpose whilst being expensively formally complex. For example, the microflats build artound Canary Wharf where the fashionable fittings and finishes make some forget that really they are buying a small hotel room sized studio where even sitting two for dinner is a struggle.
I associated this as either the fashion victim complex (the person who feels that they exist only if what surrounds them is trendy) or social status differentiation (a way for the owner to show their power with the ownership of buildings others don't have).
This weekend in the Guardian weekend magazine, a review (link) of Geoffrey Miller's recent book Spent: Sex, Evolution And The Secrets Of Consumerism presents a possible answer to the sources of the behaviour.
He argues that we are all engaging in "costly signalling" to advertise our genetic fitness and thus "consumer capitalism is a giant signalling machine for the purposes of sexual selection."
"We put too much effort into sending signals, Miller says, instead of into what makes us truly happy."
The irony is that according to his research, these signs don't impress anyone; "the fundamental consumerist delusion – that other people care more about the artificial products you display through consumerist spending than about the natural traits you display through normal conversation, cooperation, and cuddles."
So this lets me wonder of the value of highly formal architectural languages. If designing costly show-of buildings doesn't impress anyone, what is the point...