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The Architecture of Happiness Hardcover – October 3, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this entertaining and stimulating book, de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) examines the ways architecture speaks to us, evoking associations that, if we are alive to them, can put us in touch with our true selves and influence how we conduct our lives. Because of this, he contends, it's the architect's task to design buildings that contribute to happiness by embodying ennobling values. While he makes no claim to be able to define true beauty in architecture, he suggests some of the virtues a building should have (illustrated by pictures on almost every spread): order combined with complexity; balance between contrasting elements; elegance that appears effortless; a coherent relationship among the parts; and self-knowledge, which entails an understanding of human psychology, something that architects all too often overlook. To underscore his argument, de Botton includes many apt examples of buildings that either incorporate or ignore these qualities, discussing them in ways that make obvious their virtues or failings. The strength of his book is that it encourages us to open our eyes and really look at the buildings in which we live and work. A three-part series of the same title will air on PBS this fall. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Alain De Botton, author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel, and Status Anxiety, among other books, takes a humanistic approach in Architecture of Happiness and explores the ways in which our built environment affects us. He occasionally overindulges in florid prose, but critics agree that his more general observations of architecture are sound and interesting, if not entirely novel. The average reader will find much of interest in the broad range of eras, places, and styles that de Botton discusses. Well-placed photographs illustrate each point in the text. The book is so visual, in fact, that the BBC is making a three-part television series based on it, to air on PBS this fall.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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More from Alain De Botton
Alain De Botton's clear, witty prose brings new life to the study of philosophy and literature. Visit Amazon's Alain De Botton Page.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375424431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424434
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Alain de Botton's writing, so when I saw that his newest book, "The Architecture of Happiness" would not be released in the US until October 2006, I ordered it directly from Amazon.uk. I read it in two or three days and was not disappointed. Botton has a great way of connecting the writings and thoughts of the great minds of world civilization to everyday human experiences. In this case, to the kinds of buildings (public and private) we build or aspire to build, or conversely, tolerate and settle for. The book is amply illustrated. As nice as these photographs and illustrations are, Botton's writing is so precise and illustrative in its own right that the illustrations are not always necessary.

In contrast to "The Art of Travel" and "The Consolations of Philosophy", Botton's new book does not rely on quotations from ancient and modern philosphers and theorists to make its points. Quotations are few, but apt. In compensation, though, I feel Botton is exposing the reader more directly to his own thoughts, observations, and assessments. He is less melancholic than in his earlier works; also, less clever and cute. He's as interesting as ever; just more authentic, exposed, and confident in his own voice. As I was reading I found that the sentences I wanted to underline were mostly Botton's own, not those of someone he was quoting. One of these should give you a good idea of where this book will take you: "We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need--but are at constant risk of forgetting we need--within. We turn to wallpaper, benches, paintings and streets to staunch the disappearance of our true selves." (p. 107)

It's hard to remain a sleepwalker after reading one of Alain de Botton's books. An they always bear re-reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Have you ever read a book that was so good that you flip through it trying to find a representative passage that you would like to share with others, but you end up seeing that you are faced with the dilemna of re-writing the whole thing from page one because all of it is so indispensibly rich and worthy of regurgitation?

This is what is happening to me, here at Starbucks, having just finished reading Alain de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness.

Oh, such an amazing book.

Recently, I met a group of friends at [no surpirise] a Starbucks and because I arrived early, I brought my book in and read for a while. Soon they showed up and I set the book aside. My pal picked it up and read the title, flipped through it a bit, and promptly looked at me as though I had three heads, and all of them were Martian!

"What the hell are you reading this for?" he asked.

"I am totally immersed in the topic," I said. And went on to explain....

It's not about architecture, as in, how to build things. It's about the appreciation of the art that surrounds the process of all creative effort, architecture included.

The author discusses the development of so many things, from teacups to chairs to vending machines. Windows, bridges, water faucets, theatres, entire plans of cities, tables, factories, empty fields... the way we think [or don't think] about all of these things. Of course, buildings, from homes to skyscrapers, being perhaps the most prominent aesthetic consideration in our day-to-day field of vision, these get the most attention.

Why do we build as we do?

What is the history, the genesis and evolution of what we have now come to consider as architectural norms?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To read De Botton is to go on a journey to places at once unexpected yet familiar; for example, one point is supported by reference to a diagram of nose shapes and sizes. His books teach rather than exposit; they do not lack for a direct thesis--they make arguments and reach conclusions. In this book on architecture the point is made that we have a responsibility to create something that is worthy of the natural surroundings that will be altered by the creation. We have the ability and resources to transcend mere engineering concerns and the argument is made in this book that we have a duty to do so.

Obviously we cannot live the modern life stuck out in a meadow, no matter how beautiful the scenery--but our author argues that is equally difficult (or pointless) to live in a community of soulless boxes, that architecture which fails to honor aesthetic ideals is a failure even if it keeps the weather out. Good architecture is the result not of adherence to classical ideals, budget measures or engineering goals but of a balance achieved among the almost infinite range of available architectural choices.

The author understands that in order to bring his reader to an appreciation for balance in architecture that he must provide a context--he has to demonstrate when things are out of balance. De Botton excels in providing just the right amount of history, pictorial evidence, contemporary example and discussion--in fact, his presentation is itself artfully balanced and perfectly suits his theme. There may be disagreements about the thesis; however, I think that the quality of the writing is worthy of any superlatives. Anyone familiar with Michael Palin's travelogues knows that they can't be missed regardless of the destination--Mr.
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