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The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de…

The Architecture of Happiness (2006)

by Alain de Botton

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1,763386,412 (3.69)34
One of the great, but often unmentioned, causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kind of walls, chairs, buildings and streets we?re surrounded by. And yet a concern for architecture and design is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent. The Architecture of Happiness starts from the idea that where we are heavily influences who we can be - and argues that it is architecture?s task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential. Whereas many architects are wary of openly discussing the word beauty, this audiobook has at its centre the large and na ??ve question: ?What is a beautiful building?? It amounts to a tour through the philosophy and psychology of architecture, which aims to change the way we think about our homes, streets and ourselve… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Surprised by how much I enjoyed these musings on architecture and what it can tell us about societies. ( )
  brakketh | Nov 7, 2017 |
Best for: People not that familiar with architecture who are interested in learning about it in a philosophical way.

In a nutshell: Author de Botton takes the reader through a lovely journey exploring how the buildings we inhabit can help fill missing pieces in our lives, and impact how we feel.

Line that sticks with me: “The buildings we admire are ultimately those which, in a variety of ways, extol values we think worthwhile.” (p 98)

Why I chose it: I bought this long ago. It’s survived multiple book purges and moves, but I finally opened it up because I’m participating in a book challenge this summer, and one of the categories is a book about art or an artist. To avoid spending all the money, I’m checking my to read pile first, and came across this gem.

Review: I don’t know much (anything?) about architecture. I know that craftsman homes are popular in my current city, and that ranch-style homes were popular where I grew up. I’ve been learning a bit reading the amazing blog McMansion Hell (which I only came across recently thanks to Zillow going after the writer, then having to back off), but I’ve not been able to put my finger on why certain styles depress the hell of me (most one-story homes; any office park a la Office Space), while others bring me joy (pretty much anything in Paris).

This book has helped me to understand a bit better where my tastes lay and why. I am certain that there are architects who would disagree, but much of Mr. de Botton’s premise is that not only does style reflect the available resources and the elements that must be kept out (a house in Phoenix is probably going to look different from a house in Finland), but also the lives we are living. The greatest example of this is when he argues that people who seek out modernist homes are looking for some order in a chaotic life outside the home, whereas those dramatic palaces built in the 1600s weren’t just a fancy show of money, but also an attempt to create beauty in a time that was pretty dangerous (I mean, think about the diseases running rampant through cities).

I feel that I learned about architecture and beauty, but I also got to enjoy some gorgeous writing. The language Mr. de Botton uses throughout is lovely, a perfect accompaniment to the many examples of different styles of home and building. It can be a bit dense at time, but I think it is worth it, especially for those interested in a more philosophical examination of our built environment.

The only reason this is a 4-star book for me is because there are so many lovely pictures in this edition but they are all in black and white, which really takes away from my ability to see the detail and understand more of why they might be examples of architecture that elevates or depresses us. If not for that, this would be a 5-star read. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 8, 2017 |
A cool look at the evolution of architecture. ( )
  LaPhenix | Apr 27, 2016 |
At first I thought the nouns should be reversed, ie, the Happiness of Architecture. But I began to realise that the book isn't so much about architecture as it is about people and how they express themselves with architecture, as they do with other art forms. He is using architecture to explain humans. He anthropomorphises archictecture. Architecture becomes a frozen emotion. He says that “In essence, what works of design and architecture talk to us about is the kind of life that would most appropriately unfold within and around them” Design is used to show what we want to be, or what we want our values to be. It springs from “…the need for idealised forms to stand as a defence against all that remains corrupt and unimaginative within us.” The human psyche naturally seeks balance and ‘beautiful’ architecture provides that, a psychological balance and therefore mental well being and happiness. “In literature, too,” he says, “we admire prose in which a small and astutely arranged set of words has been constructed to carry a large consignment of ideas.” De Botton’s book is just that: a small and astutely arranged set of words that carries a large consignment of ideas. Which brought me to happiness.
( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141015004, 0141806753

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