These ideas have been explored most fully by the New York practice Asymptote, which creates as many virtual electronic structures as they build real ones, constantly challenging old concepts about the nature of space and focusing on experience rather than tangible details.
Their building projects bombard users with electronic information and effects, building walls out of video images and controlling environments with computers.
The tremendous advances in computer technology also mean that complex three-dimensional structures can be modelled relatively easily. Frank O. Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao is perhaps the most spectacular testament to the abilities of computer modelling, but its possibilities have also inspired younger architects.
Shuhei Endo's spirals and arches of corrugated steel, MVRDV's Villa VPRO that folds in the middle, Ben van Berkel's house based on the mathematics of the Möbius strip, Sancho Madridejos's folding planes, Shigeru Ban's undulating roofs of cardboard tubing.
While competitions have provided practices such as Studio Granda, Gigon/Guyer and Berger + Parkkinen with a chance to shine on landmark buildings such as art galleries and town halls, other architects have made valuable contributions to the urban fabric on a smaller scale.
Shuhei Endo's Transtation O in Japan, Andreas Hild's bus shelter and recycling station in Germany, and Manuelle Gautrand's colourful glass toll stations on the A16 motorway in France lift the spirit where ill-designed standard-issue pieces leave one cold.
Where opportunities for young architects tend to be on a smaller scale and include a high proportion of interiors work, many broaden their remit to include furniture design.
This has long been a popular sideline for architects, resulting in some classic pieces, and younger architects such as Claesson Koivisto Rune, Thomas Sandell, and UT have had collections commissioned by major furniture manufacturers that could one day become as collectible as an Alvar Aalto vase or Charles Rennie Mackintosh ladder back chair.
Though telecommunications, travel, and the media continue to play their part in breaking down national stereotypes, differing economic, political, topographical, and climatic conditions create regional trends.
In Europe, it has been hard to ignore the Netherlands, where a generation of architects just turning 40 have been creating fantastical buildings full of humour and imagination that totally destroy convention.
Much of this controlled eccentricity can be attributed to the influence of Rem Koolhaas, through his teaching at the Technical University of Delft in the 1980s and his Rotterdam-based practice OMA through which have passed Winy Maas of MVRDV and Willem Jan Neutelings, as well as American-born Swiss architect Mike Guyer.
Represented there are the bizarre, but strangely functional buildings of MVRDV, the wonderfully tactile work of Neutelings Riedijk, and the defiantly cerebral work of UN Studio, led by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos. Others that stand out include NOX' and oosterhuisassociates' abstract metallic water pavilion at the Oosterschelde and NL Architects' rubber-clad heat transfer station in Utrecht.
Many of these architects are already in the ascendant with a small but growing body of work behind them. More in their late 20s and early 30s are beginning to show signs of promise and are about to tackle their first mega-projects.
London-based Foreign Office Architects Alejandro Zaero Polo and Farshid Moussavi are constructing the £150 million Yokohama International Ferry Terminal in Japan which seems to defy mathematics.
London-based Cécile Brisac and Edgar González in 1999 won the competition for the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg, Sweden. Brad Cloepfil's Allied Works, based in Portland, Oregon, beat strong competition from Gigon/Guyer, Peter Zumthor, Herzog & de Meuron, and others to design the new Forum for Contemporary Art museum in St Louis, Missouri, which is scheduled to open in 2002.
The architects included here have been selected to show the diversity, originality, beauty, quality, and integrity at large at the younger end of the architectural spectrum.
Together they present a snapshot of a particular generation; 40 Architects under 40 is intended to be a reference book, a source of inspiration, and a glimpse of the future.
Jessica Cargill Thompson is a freelance journalist in London. She writes for Building Design, Wallpaper, the RIBA Journal, and other architectural publications.
This article is excerpted from 40 Architects under 40, Taschen Books, 2000, which is available at Amazon.com and at Powells.com.
Ramps spiral up through the exhibition space in the Technology Culture Museum in New York, by Asymptote, scheduled for completion in 2005.
At each of Manuelle Gautrand's tollbooths, one colour dominates and is used as a badge for the bright bulbous toilets.
Photo: Philippe Ruault
The hunting pavilion by Estudio Sancho-Madridejos is a paper cube with sections of edges pushed back into the volume so that the internal space becomes disjointed.
Photo: Hisao Suzuki
In the chapel of Estudio Sancho-Madridejos, a complex piece of origami develops around a box fold.
Photo: Hisao Suzuki
UT's Blissworld Headquarters, in Brooklyn, New York.
Photo: Andrew Bordwin
In Blissworld Headquarters, a wall of 32 numbered pivoting doors lines the main circulation route, separating offices from warehouse and labs.
Photo: Andrew Bordwin
40 Architects under 40, by Jessica Cargill Thompson, from Taschen Books.
Photo: Wendell Burnette
Click on thumbnail images
to view full-size pictures.