There is trouble in Blowhard City and you can read about it here.
I don't know if you've followed it, but there's been a little controversy in NYC about a couple of new apartment buildings that the celebritect Richard Meier has designed for a block in Greenwich Village. Meier is known for his pristine modernism (Platonic/geometric forms, white on steel on glass materials), where Greenwich Village is known and loved for its irregularity and personality -- a quirky, neighborhoody, Euro-like charm involving low buildings, lots of brick, oddly angled streets, cobblestones, cafes, flowers ... Well, the Meier buildings are now complete; here's a link to a page showing a photo of them. How do you react, knowing that they've been inserted into the Village? (Sexual overtones intended -- the Village's charm is rather feminine, while Meier's brand of modernism couldn't be more ego-phallic.) I'm happy (and grateful) to go along with David Sucher (here), who argues that the most important thing is always whether a building behaves properly in a basic, Three Rules way. That's the key, absolutely, and for all I know Meier's buildings do exactly that. Still, aesthetics can play a role too, at least they do for me. And, longtime Village inhabitant that I am -- I moved here for the art, the low buildings, the cute streets, etc -- I can't help myself. I look at the striking, bold, chilly brilliance of Meier's buildings, and I think about their architect, and my main thought is, "What an asshole."
I am gratified that someone besides is me is actually using the Three Rules to judge an urban building. But after having achieved that objective, let me say this about that: There is life after the Three Rules. They are, I believe, the first and primary step is assessing an urban structure. But they are not the only criteria.
Besides the use, (e.g. do you really want to live next to a slaughter house even if the structure is built to the sidewalk?) the sheer size of a structure in relation to its neighbors is probably the next major issue. I take no stand on the Meier design. The photos I saw didn't really give me a clear sense of what is happening at sidewalk level. And the buildings do look big. But too big? I know nothing of the neighborhood and its long-term plans for me to venture an opinion. As objects, they look fine. Just a nice ordinary competently-designed journeyman architecture...and that is no insult. Are they "too big?" I have no idea. If I were the develeoper I'd probably say "not at all...urban land is valuable and more people should be able to live at this wonderful site." If I were a neighbor...of course no new building can be too small.
As to stylistic issues I admit that there is no way to prove whether --- if the Three Rules are observed --- stylistic differences make much difference. One of the delights of the city is its layers, even the pentimento which can spring forth to the close observer. So while we should respect the site form of a particular district, I have my own doubts whether slavish adherence to a particular style is of paramount importance.
Meier's "pristine modernisn" --- if presented so it follows the Three Rules and is at an "appropriate" scale --- might do just fine. Yes, a bit of a shock for the first half-dozen times one passes it but soon just part of a diverse urban landscape if the site plan --- the key element in any case --- helps to create a pedestrian-oriented street.