theme music will not undervalue a building's function as billboard, or insist upon civic and religious structures as the only appropriate collective symbols. Corporate architecture is to our physical landscape what civil religion is to our politics: an instrument of social integration. But even more powerful than its individual triumphs is the assumption it rests upon: that for much of the time market forces and private needs are sufficient conditions for creating monuments of taste. And, while they can also immortalize greed, vulgarity, and self-indulgence, the public and domestic spheres can support such tendencies even more easily.
Apologias and audiences shift; the philanthropic, ecological, self-celebratory, and efficiency themes ebb and swell; specific sites migrate from downtown to suburb and back; but business corporations have remained potent shapers of the national landscape. Will they continue to do so? Amid a surge of home offices, a radical decentralization of the work environment, and a newly tightened scrutiny of balance sheets and philanthropic commitments, corporate design and land use may, in future years, have less impact on American life than in the past. As in other areas, corporate managers and stockholders may grow more wary of heavy investing in their physical settings, however much other parts of the community depend on active corporate engagement with environmental and aesthetic issues.
Whether or not the next several decades will spawn as decisive a support for modern architecture as the past thirty years have witnessed, in one way or another large corporations will pursue their building projects. By executive whim, formal competition, systematic investigation, or committee decision, the planning of office and factory spaces will continue to legitimate trends and, occasionally, to initiate them. Understanding the process as well as the results is fundamental to current debates over landscape form and use. And this means, in the end, understanding its historic evolution and the shifting functions performed by the corporate enterprise in America.