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The Architecture of Happiness

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  9,439 ratings  ·  747 reviews
The Achitecture of Happiness is a dazzling and generously illustrated journey through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the indelible connection between our identities and our locations.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 surroun ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 8th 2008 by Vintage (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  9,439 ratings  ·  747 reviews

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Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: interesting
When I was a child I 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 passed. 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" at arch
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’
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Years ago I listened to a lecture by the Muslim scholar Sayyid Hossein Nasr that described the philosophy of traditional Islamic city planning, some of which still survives today in places like Fez and Esfahan. As Nasr described, these cities and their component parts were designed with the explicit belief that a person's external environment strongly influenced their internal state. A city that at every turn subtly reminded people of the divine reality would in turn help them gravitate towards ...more
Chaunceton Bird
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One can easily tell from Alain de Botton's writing that he is one of the most genuinely kind individuals on this planet. This is an excellent book on the importance of thoughtful architecture. It would have been nice to have more discussion on the constraints of money, and how working-class folks can build homes the are a net positive instead of the cookie-cutter high-density suburban debacle that many of us are forced into.
S.Baqer Al-Meshqab
I probably made two mistakes when decided to start this book,
First: I chose a book about architecture and 'listened' to an audio version,
Second: I started it in a very busy day when I had too much driving to do, so more or less it became like a background noise.

Well, I will try to be fair, but even this review with the enclosed rating might not be fair at all. The book is so beautifully written. Very poetic and touches your heart to the core. But that is precisely why I found it extremely boring
Nov 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, architecture
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
stephanie ✿
(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
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
Nov 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
This book flipped a switch in me. I didn't know I could be interested in arhitecture, but de Botton was inspired by Stendhal's motto "beauty is the promise of happiness" and analyzes our surroundings and how human needs and desires manifest their ideals in architecture.
Elizabeth  Fuller
Feb 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
His writing style just flows, it's never boring.
His sensuality to space isn't sentimental at all, it's on point, he makes it feel like realistic poetry, were you just can't but relate, it's not just for architects, it's for everyone that has depth.
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
I originally rated this book 4 stars; but given how often I think about it, how often Sam and I talk about it, and how frequently I recommend it to library patrons and friends I had to bump it up.
Jun 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
One of the best books I have read. I will never look at Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Environmental Psychology, etc. the same way again. Already a fan of Alain de Botton, I can only love him more. Well written, he always explains himself with clarity and eloquence, yet in a language that is easily understood. Where we live, where we are, what we are surrounded by, is not materialistic, but realistic. It does effect who we are. More than one could ever imagine.
Joel P.
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban, design, history
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.
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alain de Botton just never disappoints. He has changed the way I think about a number of things and I'm better off for it. In The Architecture of Happiness there are no revolutionary notions but it opens the mind and the senses for beauty on several levels.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
everyone go read everything this guy wrote, he's great and hilarious and so smart
Alya AlShaibani
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
beauuuutiful read! highly recommended to people who love buildings lol
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This began really promisingly with some wonderfully evocative language personifying buildings and architecture in a playful way. However it became more of a vague historical overview with some questionably sweeping statements and I found myself much less engaged. But I think it does portray architecture and design in quite an accessible way, a great introduction to these ideas, especially with all the photographs and diagrams making for a really nicely designed book that's quick to read.
Mark Mikula
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
Joni Baboci
The Architecture of Happiness is an interesting book about architecture which - while not making any bold claims or putting forward any wild new theory - does a good job at elegantly polishing the history of architectural development.

De Botton starts his work with a subjective analysis of how one experiences architecture. How individuals are moved and psychologically influenced by buildings. He comes to the conclusion that it is pain, suffering and the multitude of life's horrible and mediocre e
Nov 25, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Humza Hussain
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Taking architecture seriously therefore makes some singular and strenuous demands upon us. It 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 ...more
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
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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
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Praise Architecture: Architecture for more than Architects 2 14 May 18, 2019 03:02PM  
Why study architecture? 1 4 Feb 08, 2019 11:38PM  
genre X: July Discussion: Architecture of Happiness 2 21 Jul 13, 2012 07:01PM  
Artistic aspirations and happiness... 1 17 Oct 18, 2011 01:25AM  
architecture and life 1 15 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

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 li

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