Architecture is the most contingent of the arts. A painter or a poet, a musician or a novelist can, with even the most meagre of means, begin to create. Buildings need clients and sites, they need planning permission and approval from neighbours, they need engineers and construction crews. And, most of all, they need money.
Architecture is consequently more intimately involved in the economic cycle than any of the other arts. But there is also a curious paradox. Much of the worst architecture emerges from a boom (think of Dubai) when there is too much work and not enough reflection. Similarly, the moments of real inspiration often emerge from economic crisis. Modernism was formed in the maelstrom of the Russian Revolution (the early masterpieces were built of timber offcuts and scrap) and the instability of the Weimar Republic.
The retreat from practice has traditionally fostered intellectual advance and new movements.
But, in recent years, an intriguing trend has emerged: architects frustrated by a lack of opportunity to build who, rather than retreating into drawings or text, have formed multidisciplinary practices to build their designs themselves.
The result has been an explosion of DIY design, often characterised by coarse timber construction, the use of found materials and ready-mades appropriated from art practice, a determinedly ad hoc aesthetic and often quite brilliant invention.