Piggybacking off of my last response, the topic of abstraction is always present in architecture and something we can learn a lot about from painters, sculptors, graphic artists, advertisers and calligraphers.
I remember Bjarke Ingle’s giving a lecture on a proposal for a project called the People’s Building in Shanhai.
This project directly engages the question of abstraction and moreover the happy accident that occurred when they realized that the building form was in fact the chinese symbol for “people.”
This gets me to the point of my response which is to say that I find buildings to be more successful (in terms of accepted publicly) when the form signifies something appropriate to the culture in which it is produced. One of the most well known examples is the cruciform church where the nave and the transverse cross in order to reinforce the idea of Christ’s crucifixion.
Moreover the idea of buildings as totalizing symbols in themselves is one of the strongest examples of power implementation. In the case of the People’s Building, it is a government building trying to reinforce the communist idea of an equal and collective people in China. In the case of the church gathering hall’s forms are reaffirmations of christian stories. Governments, religions and other large powers (now probably more corporate entities) are always using abstraction and semiology in buildings as a way of directly communicating ideas without having to be there themselves.