Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton

The Architecture of Happiness

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton is a non-fiction book that explores the power of architecture and design to shape our lives. The author argues that we love beautiful buildings because they solidify ideas we have about ourselves and our world.

They put into concrete form our aspirations; they compensate for our human weaknesses; in short, they make us happy. De Botton presents a different perspective which is not restricted to the tenets of classicism or modernism.

His argument is that the beauty of architecture manifests itself when a building communicates the idea of happiness. He explores the history of architectural style and uncovering what it is that makes a building beautiful.

The book is built on the premise that our moods are directly affected by the nature of the furniture, buildings and streets that surround us. In fact, we are influenced so much so by our built environment that it actually shapes us into the person we become.

De Botton quotes the 19th-century French writer Stendhal in saying, “Beauty is the promise of happiness”. He presents examples of contemporary architecture from Japan, Switzerland and the Netherlands that embody many of these characteristics.

These buildings succeed in carrying the valuable lessons of the past while leading us into a “restless, global future”.

The main themes of the book are:

  • The power of architecture and design to shape our lives
  • The importance of understanding the history of architectural style
  • The need to create buildings that communicate the idea of happiness
  • The ability of architecture to respond to the past without being nostalgic
  • The importance of adapting to the local vernacular while exhibiting a universal appeal

Useful Takeaways

  • Beauty is the promise of happiness
  • Architecture has the power to shape our lives
  • Understanding the history of architectural style is important
  • Buildings should communicate the idea of happiness
  • Architecture should respond to the past without being nostalgic
  • Adapting to the local vernacular while exhibiting a universal appeal is important

What I Liked

Architecture is interesting to me, but I absolutely do not get it. This book definitely helped me “get” architecture a bit more.

What I Did Not Like

This book is more of stretch than his others (like this one, this one, or this one). He’s a great writer, but I’d rank this lower than his others.

There are portions in the middle that need some editing (or architectural glossary).

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