Sometimes I wonder if modern architecture is deliberately designed to be as empty and soul-crushing as it is. A hundred years ago, you could look at a photo of a city and you would likely be able to guess where in the world it was taken. These days it seems like every city looks the same, with no real identity, culture, or style. Some older cities around the world have impressive architecture from centuries ago, but with every year that goes by, more and more of it gets renovated or destroyed to make more space for shopping malls and glass, rectangular office buildings. Why?
The most obvious reason why impressive architecture hardly get built anymore is because its far cheaper to throw up bunch of uniform office buildings than create artistic, intricate buildings and structures. Modern buildings are designed to be functional above all else. It's like at some point architects decided that beauty was outdated and just wasn't worth it anymore.
The Singer Building (left) in New York City was demolished in 1967 to make room for the One Liberty Plaza (right), because the One Liberty Plaza had more office space.
Another thing that has drastically changed architecture and urban planning is the fact that older cities were built to accommodate humans, while cities today are built to accommodate cars. Many towns and cities back in the day were far more "walkable", meaning things were generally closer together and easier to get to by foot. There's a lot more people who own and depend on personal vehicles today, so cities have to accommodate. Restaurants, shops and town homes were replaced by big parking lots, and big highways cut through the city, which effectively disconnected some areas of a city from others. With cars, the need to keep everything close by disappeared, and the urban sprawl became the norm for city planning
Of course like any form of art, what makes a building or city "beautiful" is subjective. Some people probably really like the minimalist, modern building style of today. Not every building built today is a boring rectangle. Lots of architects do try to make something unique from time to time. Sometimes too unique.
The worst architectural crime of the modern age is when architects are given the power to "bring new life" into old buildings. It's never much of an improvement, and more often ends up just terrible.
People are influenced by their environments, and because of this i think that ugly, soulless architecture is partly responsible for the emptiness that a lot of people feel today. At least a lot of modern architecture isn't built to last so maybe as more of it falls apart, architects might actually try to make cities beautiful again.