One of Dickens’s villains boasts that he’s never moved by a pretty face, for he can see the grinning skull beneath. That’s realism, he says. But it’s a strange kind of realism that can look through life in all its vibrancy to focus only on death.

Much of today’s architecture brings that misanthrope to mind. Beauty? For our advanced culture, it’s as spectral as classical philosophy’s two other highest values: the good and the true. A building might be cutting-edge, boundary-breaking, transgressive. But simply beautiful? The arts have transcended such illusions.