The Architecture of Happiness

May 1, 2006

Like Christian over at Mind Hacks, I too am a big fan of Alain de Botton and am probably going to read his new book, The Architecture of Happiness. Unfortunately, unless I buy it from Amazon's UK site, I won't be able to get it until October.

The Guardian article on the book, A punch in the façade, is less than glowing. However, from a quick comparison of the review with the book's synopsis makes me think the reviewer might be missing the point of the whole book.

From my thorough review of the book's dust jacket, I think Alain might be critiquing architecture from a deliberately unique angle. In particular, for not taking itself seriously enough as an controller of human emotions. We are, in many ways, a product of the places we live, and the environment we're surrounded by. Chairs, tables, desks, and hallways contribute to a good percentage of the 40 billion pieces of sensory data that enter our eyes, butts, and fingers per second. Most of that data is filtered out in our routine day, but is still processed and categorized and analyzed by our subconscious. I have noticed that simply changing the color of a wall or getting a new sofa will do a lot to affect my mood over a long period of time, even though I can't pinpoint exact reasons for the change. Alain, I'm guessing, is taking this point and running with it in his typical clever and articulate manner… and I think he deliberately left out more practical and common perspectives of architecture's usefulness and aesthetics for real architects.


One Response to “The Architecture of Happiness”

  1. scoobie Says:

    There was a uk tv programme to go with the book (called “Perfect home”), it was pretty interesting, though, like you suggest it posed as many questions as it did give answers at times. His main argument was that most modern houses, aren’t modern, they relate back to houses we had 100’s of years ago because that’s the idea of what we expect a house to be like. He also suggests that the design of a house effects the way we live and our interaction with the outside world.

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