The Architecture of Happiness (英語) ハードカバー – 2006/10/3
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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 can be, and it 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 book has at its center the large and naïve question: What is a beautiful building? It is a tour through the philosophy and psychology of architecture that aims to change the way we think about our homes, our streets and ourselves.
"De Botton is a lively guide, and his eclectic choices of buildings and locations evince his conclusion, that “we should be as unintimidated by architectural mediocrity as we are by unjust laws.”
—The New Yorker
The next time I'm at a party, and the conversation turns to "serious topics," like what the stock market did today, I think I'll suggest we talk about something more important: architecture. I'll ask the investment banker why he bought the house he did and insist he answer the question. And then I'll start quoting Alain de Botton.
—The National Post
If this book were a building, it would be a contemporary reading room, I think, with big windows, and clean, built-in bookshelves with a fold-out step ladder just right for fetching slim volumes from the top shelf. The elegant clarity and brisk humour of his style, accompanied by pages of photos, opens your eyes to the rich possibility of thinking about your home, and your city, in a new way.
—The Toronto Star
"De Botton's books are the literary equivalent of the Slow Food movement. They demand to be lingered over, not because the concepts are difficult but because they are rich and deep. Be prepared to put down your book frequently and turn his last few sentences over in your mind, testing his theses against the rooms and buildings you know well."
—The Globe and Mail
"In this simple, entertaining and brilliant book, Alain de Botton explores how architecture speaks to us and why it affects all aspects of human life. His great strength is to explain things we always knew but never understood."
—Christopher Hume, Architecture Critic, Toronto Star
“How did we ever manage without de Botton?”
— Sunday Times (U.K.)
“[de Botton] deals with questions of style, ideas of beauty, notions about why certain structures appeal to us. 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. Virtually every page contains a sentence any essayist would be proud to have written. A lyrical and generously illustrated monograph about the intimate relationship between our buildings and ourselves.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Singlehandedly, de Botton has taken philosophy back to its simplest and most important purpose: helping us live our lives.”
De Botton writes beautifully and passionately with helpful photographs or renderings that compare and contrast what he is extolling or criticizing. The final two chapters ("The Virtues of Buildings" and "The Promise of a Field") are particularly fine. In them, he discusses (among other things) order, elegance, balance, and coherence. The promise of a field is a paean to the spaces we occupy that were once either uncluttered or naturally beautiful in their own right. De Botton argues that if we are going to plop down a structure in the midst of nature (which already contains natural order, elegance, and balance) let us at least make it a 'best effort'. Put thought and consideration into the process rather than just utilitarian or worse, adding another scar on the landscape. Let's make cities like Edinburgh or Bath--conceived, planned and executed with purpose, not the awful sprawl of London or Los Angeles. I couldn't agree more.
None of the arguments in the book are earth-shattering, and they shouldn't be. De Botton's ultimate purpose of the book is to convert the "non-believers" of architecture who believe that the profession is nothing more than fanciful, unnecessary ornament. It successfully proves why we need architecture in a very gradual way: first, if you believe that who you are depends on external forces (not a very demanding concept for even the most cynical), then you can come to believe that who you are depends on where you are, followed by who you are depends on the built environment around you as much as the people in your life. After he adds this concluding link in his chain of persuasion, de Botton provides a list of five virtues that any happy structure should reflect: order, balance, elegance, coherence, and self-knowledge.
Required reading for architects and anyone considering buying or constructing a building.