There is a natural reaction from citizens and from governments when their cultures are not reflected in urban building projects. This often comes up in the Middle East. So many international architects make it their business to be contextual. As a result, their projects will feature doves, camels, falcons and other first-degree symbols of local history.
This issue is fascinating because if you look back a hundred years, you find that there was still such a thing as Indian architecture, Thai architecture, Chinese architecture, African architecture, Dutch architecture and Russian architecture. But now, almost all of these languages have disappeared, and are subsumed in a larger and seemingly universal style. The process has been like the disappearance of a spoken language.
Remnants of these differences still exist. For example, a high-rise in Singapore is inhabited in a very different way from a high-rise in the suburbs of Paris or a high-rise in China. Each of these cultures, which once had its own form of speaking, is not trying to resurrect its old language, but is interested in defining and asserting its uniqueness again.
On the other hand, some cultures have managed to maintain their distinctiveness. It still is meaningful to say that someone is a Japanese architect, but relatively meaningless to say that someone is an American or a Dutch architect. The Dutch happily subsumed their identity into international modernism and found international resonances and connections. In Japan, however, there has always been an insistence that even a modern thing should respect tradition. Japanese forms are still particularly careful, particularly well made, particularly intricate; they do not surrender to a large or brutal scale.
by Rem Koolhaas