In Britain, the year begins with a renewed sense of pessimism that nothing of worth that we set out to achieve will ever come to fruition. What should be the greatest symbol of what architecture can do, the Millennium Dome, is set to become another monument to the thwarting of the imagination of the great by the pettifogging of the nondescript.
It is therefore distinctly poignant to read what the film star Brad Pitt, interviewed in the Telegraph magazine, has to say about architecture. The 'sexiest man alive' declares that architecture brings him more joy than anything 'because it's something I can do on my own and no one can interfere'.
In reality, architecture is more visibly affected by what Pitt calls 'interference' than any other activity. The interference he has in mind is not the legitimate interest of the common people. It is the way more and more powerful non-creative bureaucracies perpetuate themselves by hemming in any positive initiative, to the detriment of the interests of those common people.
This is why one of the most promising initiatives of the moment is called the Can Do project. The Scarman Trust has set up free phone lines where anyone can say what is wrong with where they live, what they think should be done about it, and what they (the callers) can do about it. Small monetary awards have been given to people proved to be Doers. The aim is for the initiators and users of projects to manage them as well, trained in techniques of cutting red tape and Doing It as directly and as economically as possible.
Despite Mr Pitt, the fundamental question of the next period will not be whether you can 'do something on your own' by being an architect. It is how the victims of the bureaucratic forces of immobility might become its masters.