The Architecture of Happiness. Home · The Architecture of Author: Alain De Botton Architecture Principles: The Cornerstones of Enterprise Architecture. Alain de Botton specializes in the philosophical-light approach to many of the of beauty in our life and it connection to our well-being and ultimate happiness. The Achitecture of Happiness is a dazzling and generously illustrated journey through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the indelible.
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The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide. Spring Reviews: The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton (New York: Pantheon, ) and From a Cause to a Style, by Nathan Glazer (Princeton . Bestselling author Alain de Botton considers how our private homes and public edifices influence how we feel, and how we could build dwellings in which we.
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Is the style of a house or a building largely superficial or can it serve as a guardian of ones identity? Join the conversation. Our number in Washington is That's TALK. Our e-mail address is talk npr. Alain de Botton's latest book is The Architecture of Happiness. One of the first things you address in your book is some suspicions, some doubts about the nature of architecture and its ability to change our world.
You question its seriousness and its moral worth. I mean I think anyone who really likes art in general, but architecture more specifically, comes up very quickly against some uncomfortable sort of insights and truths. One of the people with one of the nicest houses in all of 20th century Europe was Hermann Goering. He ransacked Europe looking for beautiful pieces of art and furniture and built this really sumptuous house.
And it didn't do him much good. I think somewhere at the back of our minds there's an assumption that investing in good art and design and creating a beautiful series of spaces will in some way improve us, will sort of make us better. But the example of Goering's house quickly shows us that I think that works of architecture do have kind of moral messages, you could say, but they're not laws.
They're not legally binding. They can't force you to be nice. They can only suggest that you be so. CONAN: And I think you quote - was it John Ruskin ph as saying - he's in the great, beautiful city of Venice and said, well, it doesn't seem to make the people here much happier than anybody else.
Having spent about 15 years of his life studying the glories of Venice, in a moment of kind of depressive lucidity he was forced to acknowledge that many Venetians were not cheered up on a daily basis by their surroundings. That's not to say that architecture doesn't matter. It's just one has to acknowledge some of the hurdles in the way. DE BOTTON: Yes, I mean this is something that - you know, the 19th century offered us that lovely word the effete, somebody who cares in a way too much about architecture and beauty.
The most famous effete of the 19th century was of course Oscar Wilde, who famously said that the wrong kind of wallpaper could upset him far worse than a death in the family.
And there is a way in which a love of architecture can push aside concerns for other things. I mean, I often feel this because I live with somebody who's completely uninterested in questions of art and design. He's 22 months old. He's my son Samuel. And despite long speeches to him, he loves to destroy the furniture, write on the walls. I care a lot about him, but he doesn't care about the surroundings.
And I think, you know, that anyone who's manifest a strong interest in beautiful places quickly has to weigh that desire and that interest up against competing claims, including those of family life. CONAN: One of the most interesting passages I thought in your book: We may need to have made an indelible mark on our lives, to have married the wrong person, pursued an unfulfilling career into middle age or lost a loved one before architecture can begin to have any perceptible impact on us.
But when we speak of being moved by a building, we allude to a bittersweet feeling of contrast between the noble qualities written into a structure and the sadder, wider reality within which we know them to exist.
Maybe your son hasn't married the wrong woman yet. Soundbite of laughter Mr. And it's only as, you know, I've aged and problems have come along that haven't necessarily been easy to solve, et cetera, that I've begun to appreciate those moments in life.
And they're not moments that last forever; they are literally moments when you see something beautiful, something attractive, when something is nice. You come to live more in the moment. And I think the beautiful things are things of the moment. You know, you're passing through a room. You happen to appreciate the way the wooden floorboards are arranged or something.
So I think that there's - in a way, people who put their faith in architecture have to remember that it's not a faith akin to, I don't know, trying to restart the world anew or create a revolution or something. It's a modest ambition, a very, very important ambition, but a modest one.
And I think many, especially younger people who are studying architecture, sometimes want to remake the world through architecture. And I think, you know, to some extent you can, but you have to be modest about it as well. Because sometimes, you know, you can be in the most beautiful building in the world, but if you've got a headache that headache will wipe out any advantage that the building might have been able to provide.
Our number: E-mail: talk npr. And Pat joins us on the line from Buffalo in New York. And, you know, it's kind of all the artwork and just when you walk in it kind of has the spiritual sort of uplifting effect on you, you know, not only the architecture itself but a lot of the artwork inside. And I just wanted to comment on how, you know, coupled with being there for mass, it just kind of has a surreal, almost spiritual feeling and effect on -and I think that building has affected me more than any other, you know, building I've stepped in before.
I think that churches and religious buildings generally teach us a lot about architecture. They really teach us a very basic lesson, which is we don't think the same way wherever we are, that there are certain buildings that put us in certain frames of mind.
You know, a well decorated, a beautiful church will put us into a mindset where we're more receptive to dwelling on certain issues. And, you know, a supermarket will direct our thoughts in other ways. And that's why religions have, perhaps more than any other entity, been very aware of the power of architecture. Because we're not the same people wherever we are. And if we get the buildings right, we'll end up, according to certain religions, we'll end up being the sort of people that these religions want us to be.
Is it one of those gothic structures with sweeping curves that lead your eyes upward? PAT: Yeah, it's a very gothic basilica built around, you know, the turn of the century. And it's got a huge dome and arches. And it's got a, you know, a lot of angel statues on the inside and on the outside.
It's very intricate and, you know, very sophisticated. PAT: Father Baker, who's trying to get into sainthood early, his advocates are, it was his dream and it finally came to reality. And it's been kind of a focal point of, you know, the religious in this area. There's a lot of Catholics in the city of Buffalo and Buffalo area, so unintelligible.
PAT: I will, thanks. It's interesting.
He's talking about a gothic building, and you write a lot in the early part of your book about how there was once a consensus amongst architects on what we describe - how we define a beautiful building. A consensus that collapsed. I mean if you look at architecture all over the West, you know, right from, I don't know, San Francisco to St. Petersburg, there was a consensus for hundreds of years that a beautiful building, especially a courthouse or an important building, should be a classical building.
You know, classical buildings still around in an awful lot of places. But that consensus starts to break down in the 19th century and then on into the 20th. And suddenly a lot of different styles come about: the gothic style, the Jacobean style, the Islamic style. Suddenly you get a new choice in architecture. And whereas choice is a wonderful thing in many areas of life, when it comes to architecture, if you have a city or a town where all the buildings look different, they all seem like they're in a way having an argument among themselves.
That can be very disorienting and confusing. And among many architects for really a hundred years or so, there's been a search to try and find some style which would win everyone over so that we wouldn't have chaos in our cities, and that search is ongoing. CONAN: You point, for example, to the city of Bath in England which is beautifully designed, unifiedly designed, and presents an incredible impression when you come upon it that was not built at much greater expense or much greater trouble than a lot of places which are considerably less distinguished.
I mean there are some wonderful kind of showpiece avenues, but on the whole it's just a repetition of a basic kind of structure. And some of the nicest cities in the world are really quite simple. You know, it's just the same unit that keeps being repeated. And part of the problem with contemporary architecture is the belief that the architect is a kind of lone genius whose task it is to produce something utterly different from what's come before.
And that's led in many cases to streets which are seriously sort of disconnected and are not giving out a coherent message. And your point about money is I think very interesting. You know, many people say, well, surely we need a lot of money to create good architecture. You know, if only it were that simple. Anyone who's ever driven along, I don't know, some of the more unfortunate streets in Beverly Hills or in Bishops Avenue in London will realize that a lot of money does not itself guarantee good architecture.
Just as anyone who's wondering around certain hill villages in Italy, say, will quickly realize that a modest budget never condemns a building to ugliness either. It's unfortunately about the intelligence of the design. If you'd like to join us, E-mail us, talk npr.
We're going to come back after a short break with an update for you on the crash of a small aircraft into an apartment building in New York City, so stay tuned for that. I'm Neal Conan. We'll get back to our conversation with Alain de Botton in just a moment. He's on the telephone with us from the scene of a plane crash, an aircraft crash, in New York City.
Robert, what can you tell us? And it's a story building and there was an impact of some sort of aircraft - I guess they're saying now a helicopter - around the 20th floor. There were reports of flames coming out, an explosion and debris coming down. But right now it's just a mess here.
There's a massive, massive police and fire response. CONAN: We're getting word from the Federal Aviation Administration; it's still too early from their point of view to determine what kind of aircraft was involved or what might have caused this crash. Obviously, though, there's got to be a lot of speculation.
A plane crash is pretty rare, obviously, around here. But helicopters, recently over the last year, they've had a number of different problems, them dumping into the East River. One, a tourist helicopter about a year ago, and then there was a business helicopter that crashed not too long ago.
Now those were minor events and those happened into the water off Manhattan. But it's sort of good to know that - at least informative to know that these things happened before. I mean there's just an amazing emergency response. Now I see at least 20 ambulances, maybe 30 or 40 fire department vehicles, police vehicles packed with officers. You know, they're taking no chances around here, but no word yet on who might have been injured or what might have happened.
I mean, we do know it was a residential building. There are some business parts of the building that are on the lower floors. And it looks like initially from some of the helicopter shots, who have a better view of this than I do, that it was probably five or six apartments, or six units I should say, that looked like they were affected by smoke and fire.
CONAN: It looked like flames were gushing out at one point of two apartment buildings, one - two apartments, one on top of the other. And it did look - again, I'm watching this on television from a couple of hundred miles away - it did look as if you could see the hoses of firemen dousing the flames. You now see continued smoke gushing out of the buildings and obviously staining the building. And certainly other apartments in that building might have been involved. And all the indications we have thus far is no indication that any kind of terrorism is involved in this incident.
Robert Smith, thanks very much for being with us. We'll have more for you later in this program, and stay tuned to NPR News throughout the day. We'll have the latest for you. But let's get back to our conversation with Alain de Botton about his new book, The Architecture of Happiness.
And, Alain de Botton, I realize it's disconcerting to be talking about damage to a high-rise apartment building in New York City and the philosophical principles of architecture, but it is an important point. We were discussing before the break the idea of money, and you say we don't have to put up with mediocrity anymore. I mean I think that some of the problem is that in our education system we get taught a lot about literature, we get taught a lot about pictures, about art.
What we don't ever get taught about is architecture, even though it's the art form - of all the art forms, it's the one that has the greatest influences on us. It's the one that costs the most, and it's the one that really colors our lives. And it sticks around for a very, very long time.
So I think it's very important for people to, as it were, educate themselves in architecture so that we'll be less at the behest of property developers who come along and, as it were, abuse our ignorance of architecture by saying, well, you know, no one really knows what's beautiful and what's ugly so, you know, here's a condominium block and, you know, I'm sure you'll like if you looked at it in the right way.
So we're very at the mercy of people telling us what's good and what's bad and often don't trust our own judgments, whereas people's ordinary judgment is often much closer to the mark. This is Elizabeth. Elizabeth calling us from Provo, Utah. ELIZABETH: I was calling because I really kind of agree a little bit with what you just said about how a lot of commercial architects will just make something and, you know, if it's good enough to live there, people will live there.
And right now I'm looking for my first apartment with my husband. And just looking at some of the apartments, some of the ones you can tell they were built in a certain time - like they're a couple of decades old and they're kind of rundown and they're not very attractive. They're very, very blockish, I guess.
And then some of the other ones have a more classical style, the kind of things you would see on a movie or on TV where like a happy family would live, and they almost look like little homes. I mean those are the places that I want to live because they give me a good feeling just looking at the architecture, you know. Like this is where I want to live. We're going to have a happy family. And, you know, it's not something that ever gets taught in architecture school.
Architects don't get taught to create homely feelings.