Various versions of that omnious statement above have been the central premise of countless reports on the state of architecture over the last few years. And it's not without a point.
A rapidly growing urban population raises urgent questions of how to balance the safeguarding of the environment while meeting the need for more housing, offices and infrastructure. Currently, the building and construction sector is responsible for 40% of global CO2 emissions, with operations representing 28% each year the building is in use and construction materials adding another 11%.
The good news is that sustainable architecture is enjoying unprecendented business and policy momentum, with construction and architectural companies pivoting to a model where low-carbon thinking is integrating into every aspect of the planning and construction process - from the choice of building materials and waste management to climate efficient heating, cooling and plumbing.
And yet, we are still establishing a benchmark for what should count as a truly sustainable building, there's another - less touted - aspect that is neglected too often... the imperative to build beautifully.
If strolling through any European city today, you're bound to eventually be confronted with a modern structure that compels you to question the vision. Sometimes it's an inner-city office grinding awkwardly against its historical surroundings, and other times it's a cement-heavy complex in the suburbs. The common denominator is that they fail to inspire.
Indeed, as the function of many modern buildings has taken precedent over aesthetics, many now suggest that the advent of climate-friendly construction will only amplify our technocratic approach to architecture.
But is it really true that beauty and sustainability are incompatible?
After all, the idea of a climate-friendly building as a functional box adhering to regulations might not only be reductive but also be short-sighted. A broader view on sustainability means that our creations should be healthy for the environment and its population - and that means building something that can be admired for generations rather than facing the wrecking ball.
Meanwhile, our green transition has ushered in both new building techniques as well as materials that will become cheaper as their adoption spreads - granting new tools to creative architects around the world.
We should also remember that great artists have always operated within the confines of current society, be it technological or cultural. So rather than viewing "attractive, green architecture" as an oxymoron, couldn't beauty become a natural complement to the simplicity and efficiency that defines our era? If so, climate awareness may not be a design problem, but an opportunity.
The relationship between substance and style is one of the topics we discuss in an episode of WICONA Meets and features one of the leading members of the avant-garde design world - Dieter Brell.