The Architecture of Happiness
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The Architecture of Happiness

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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  4,089 ratings  ·  398 reviews
One of the great but often unmentioned causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kinds of walls, chairs, buildings and streets that surround us.

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...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Pantheon (first published 2006)
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Killer Rabbit
I don't like the way that building is looking at me.
This author asserts that buildings speak to us, and I completely agree. Sometimes, they say nice things like, "Hi. You look thirsty. Would like to come in for a pint?" And sometimes they give you attitude: "There appears to have been a mistake. Your kind does not belong here."

Since modern people seem to spend so much time communicating with their electronic devices, I figure it's a good thing that the buildings are picking up the conversational...more
Zanna
First read January 2008


Casa P, Sao Paulo, by Marcio Kogan

That most of this feels like something I might myself have written, I take to be an indictment of my own education. I am going to an attempt a highly critical reading, because I am suspicious of how comfortable I feel in it. Technically, it is as much about interior decoration as about architecture, but that makes less of a snappy title.

The book never quite stops apologising for its subject, de Botton repeating that architecture seems triv...more
RandomAnthony
I find myself looking at art and buildings differently after reading The Architecture of Happiness, so I cannot deny the power of the text on an architectural neophyte. And while I don’t agree with all of the author’s assertions, I found myself reacting rigorously to his contentions. Add beautiful prose, and yes, I can recommend The Architecture of Happiness.

The book reads like a combination of architecture primer and persuasive essay stocked with supporting photos and illustrations. De Botton’...more
Janie
A nod to my brother for introducing this book to me. De Botton completely disbunks the notion I'd adopted (from whom? where?) that good architecture is purely functional and anything else is simply the expression of an its designer's overactive ego. NOT. Surely architects are guilty of erecting bombastic works, but it by no means explains why the line of a rooftop or curve of a banister stirs a particular mood and emotion in its viewer. De Botton delves into the how we relate to objects, why one...more
Marcia
I'm not an architect or scientist, but a counselor and teacher. I read the book because of my interest in beauty, form and function. I enjoyed the author's compare and contrast method in discussing various architectural styles. Most amusing was Viscount Bangor and Lady Anne Bligh's Castle Ward. Negotiated to end a marital dispute on style, the Castle displays a Classic front and Gothic rear. The psychology of "talking buildings" was light hearted and a little far fetched for me at times. My prob...more
Caris
Like many others, I learned of this book by watching the film 500 Days of Summer. The movie made such a distinct impression on me that I felt I had no choice but to read the book the protagonist gave to his love. Why this book? Why not something romantic?

The simple answer is that this book is incredibly romantic, just not in the cliche way I was looking for. In the opening pages, de Botton expounds on the idea that one must feel the ever-so-memorable cocktail of pain, loss, and heartbreak to eve...more
Elizabeth  Fuller
I'm not an architect nor an architecture expert, but I am definitely interested in the subject. This book isn't a technical treatise on what makes "good" architecture, but instead talks about how architecture reflects who we are, how we feel about our lives, and how architecture can make us feel. I enjoyed the musings, and the historical perspective, especially in such insightful passages as this one, on how people developed local housing styles in earlier centuries:
"The difficulties of travel a...more
Julia
Alain de Botton's Architecture of Happiness is a humanist's guide to understanding built environments. Finding room to appreciate both classical and contemporary architecture, de Botton resolves the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns by suggesting that every architecture strives to provide the conditions for happiness. "What works of design and architecture talk to us about is the kind of life that would most appropriately unfold within and around them. They tell us of certain moods th...more
Jen  Dean
This book was a gift from my fiancee and, in fact, one of the first books he gave me. For that reason, it will forever hold a special place on my bookshelves. I enjoyed the book overall however; I felt as though it was a bit of an architectural history review and didn't fully delve into the ties between psychology and architecture. I found myself thinking on many occasions, "Ooooh, here's his chance - this could get really good!" Only to feel a wee bit disappointed when his sermon had ended. I f...more
Steff
(500) Days of Summer is one of my favorite movies. Being a real life embodiment of Tom Hansen, I thought I would give this book a try. It was impossible for me to watch the movie and not be curious as to why he was reading it and why he enjoyed it so much that he felt the need to give it to Summer.

When I first started this book I thought it was going to focus quite a bit on the psychology of why architecture has the ability of changing who we are. While it did delve into the idea of the differen...more
Ruth
When I was a child we used to have long walks with my parents (both architects) along the streets of my home town and listen to them discuss almost every building, every design choice and ornament we walked pass. Since then I got used to walking the streets looking up at the buildings (this resulted in stepping inside numerous puddles, dogs business and never finding any coins) and I thought that I could really "see" a building.
After reading this book I discovered a whole new way of "looking" a...more
Kurt
As some other reviews have noted, switching the words "Architecture" and "Happiness" in the title gives a better picture of what this book is about. Mostly, de Botton traces a path along various historical and geographical areas of development in architecture, and he draws out what makes a structure beautiful and emotionally satisfying. The writing style will likely put many readers off, as the vocabulary choices are about as ornate as the 18th-century British decorations for which the author ha...more
Marcus
I really enjoyed this book. It's fast paced, conversational and exploratory. My favorite parts were the philosophizing about the nature of beauty. For example, de Botton discusses how we subconsciously humanize almost everything we see. We give buildings and sculptures personalities then judge them based on these projected human traits.

He talks about how the buildings and art we find appealing reflect the fulfillment of our desires, not what we are or have, but the ideals we aspire to. Because o...more
Des
Oct 29, 2012 Des rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: science
The author does not discuss anything new, he just puts it all very well together, chose excellent illustrations to make his points.
It is written in such fine and clear language and structure, that it just flows of the pages. Such a pleasure to read and to use as a little nudge to contemplate about a few truths in life.
fleetofhorses
"The failure of architects to create congenial environments mirrors our inability to find happiness in other areas of our lives. Bad architecture is in the end as much a failure of psychology as of design. It is an example expressed through materials of the same tendency which in other domains will lead us to marry the wrong people, choose inappropriate jobs and book unsuccessful holidays: the tendency not to understand who we are and what will satisfy us.

"In architecture, as in so much else, we...more
John Martindale
The philosophy of Architecture and Art is really interesting! I liked this book a lot.
Alain De Botton reflected on so many angles, I look forward to discussing some of the following questions (influenced by this book) with friends.

How important is context when it comes to our behavior and mood?
How does architecture affect us?
How does the philosophy of an age reflect itself in the our architecture?
Why does the concept of beauty change, what causes the change?
Is it possible to land on some basic...more
Marion

- p.150:
It is perhaps when our lives are at their most problematic that we are likely to be most receptive to beautiful things.

- p.248:
However, these can in the end always be traced back to nothing more occult than a failure of empathy, to architects who forgot to pay homage to the quirks of the human mind, who allowed themselves to be seduced by a simplistic vision of who we might be, rather than attending to the labyrinthine reality of who we are.

- p. 260:
Keene observed that the Japanese sense...more
Iris
This image-packed book of short chapters has the effect of an afternoon with a sentimental and articulate friend. At his most helpful, the author takes your hand and invites you to peer at specific designs: if modern art bores you, read Part III and prepare to be ravished by stone slabs and other conceptual artworks.

Botton is equally illuminating when pondering aesthetic and emotional contexts of buildings: a rural Swedish living room, a McDonalds, a stark office complex in Troy, Michigan, or th...more
Cheryl
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 appr...more
Mark Mikula
Like the first book that I read by de Botton, I enjoyed this one. I first read On the Pleasures and Sorrows of Work because I heard him give an interview about that one last year. The Architecture of Happiness was the first one that I saw on the shelves of his though, and I finally remembered to put a request through to the library to get this one. It came up as a featured prop in the movie (500) Days of Summer, starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and for that reason was given a m...more
Mykle
Feb 15, 2012 Mykle rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: architects
"Taking architecture seriously ... requires that we open ourselves to the idea that we are affected by our surroundings even when they are made of vinyl and would be expensive and time-consuming to ameliorate. It means conceding that we are inconveniently vulnerable to the colour of our wallpaper and that our sense of purpose may be derailed by an unfortunate bedspread. At the same time, it means acknowledging that buildings are able to solve no more than a fraction of our dissatisfactions or pr...more
Dan
Alain de Botton is a bit ridiculous when it comes to the fanciful little stories he tells throughout: "A terraced house on a tree-lined street. Earlier today, the house rang with the sound of children's cries and adult voices, but since the last occupant took off (with her satchel) a few hours ago, it has been left to sample the morning by itself.... Occasionally, the letter-box opens with a rasp to admit a plaintive leaflet." That's from the first paragraph. But, all in all, he does a pretty am...more
Joel P.
This is a book I will need to read many many times, which it allows thankfully. It is a small book full of huge ideas and philosophies that weave together and escort the reader through the many ideas of architecture, what it is, and what it should and can be. Looking forward to thinking on this book further and returning to it again down the road.
Terri
Architecture of Happiness is a philosophical and thought provoking book on architecture . De Botton begins by asking, "what is a beautiful building?" and through the book answers the question in inspiring ways. Beauty, he says, lies between the extremities of order and complexity. For a building to be beautiful it needs the confidence and kindness to be a little boring, but too boring and it is condemned for its tedium. "We delight in complexity to which genius has lent an appearance of simplici...more
Anna
Bought a year ago, February 2013. Reinard recommend this one.
I think of how long I've been away from architecture books that I realize this type of subjective writing sometimes takes more effort to understand. De Botton clearly choosing unfamiliar words, and some of his point of view I frankly can not agree. It seems like his wiritng is a gilded walls: you can see it's there with all the decoration that conceal its function.
I was appealed at once, in early pages that he writes about Villa Savo...more
kaysee
Simply worded with a few good points about the performance of architecture. I thought it would be more innovative, so I was a little disappointed upon finishing and realizing it hadn't broadened my understanding as much as I'd expected. But de Botton is a fantastic writer and I'm looking forward to reading more of him.
Ruth
I have a genius daughter. This was a Mother's Day gift. Perfect book for me to be pondering as we start planning a new house. Loved the writing style of juxtaposing different ideas. Some of it took me back to Gombrich and his generous way of discussing art. So instead of condemning the factory workers in Pessac who put rural shutters and sloping roofs on Le Corburier's minimalist houses, de Botton thinks about WHY: they've worked in a factory all day - do they really want to come home to the sam...more
Cory
Required reading for travel as it will prepare the mind for enhanced appreciation and understanding of how architecture works. More than focusing on aesthetics, de Botton delves into the ways architecture effects us and why it matters.
Lori G
Buildings that speak or are islands of perfection. Just two of the ideas that Alain De Botton draws attention to in this book. He refers to many authors,artists, philosophers, and architects for explanation and inferences. After reading the passage about John Ruskin, I read portions of his work on Gutenberg Press. Further, I am now interested in the Japanese aesthetic of the beauty in patina and the symbols of the passing of all things. I never thought so much about the meaning of buildings befo...more
Bookaholic
Cat de mult ne influenteaza arhitectura? Iata un subiect sensibil, pe marginea caruia multe dispute au aparut. Acceptam sau nu ca ce vedem in jurul nostru ne poate da o stare de spirit mai buna sau mai rea, o vibratie mai inalta sau mai joasa, ne poate face mai fericiti sau nu? Si care e rolul arhitectului in toata aceasta relatie complexa de empatie si simpatie cu ce se construieste in jurul nostru?


Alain de Botton contureaza toate aceste raspunsuri cu un obiectivism atat de abil documentat si c...more
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genre X: July Discussion: Architecture of Happiness 2 15 Jul 13, 2012 07:01PM  
Artistic aspirations and happiness... 1 16 Oct 18, 2011 01:25AM  
architecture and life 1 14 Sep 26, 2011 04:24AM  
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Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via www.alaindebotton.com

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday lif...more
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“It is in books, poems, paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge.” 111 likes
“It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. Acquaintance with grief turns out to be one of the more unusual prerequisites of architectural appreciation. We might, quite aside from all other requirements, need to be a little sad before buildings can properly touch us.” 92 likes
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