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The Architecture of Happiness

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Home » Books » Nonfiction » Philosophy » Aesthetics

The Architecture of Happiness

By Alain de Botton

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Format: Paperback, 280 pages
Other Information: black & white illustrations, maps
Published In: United States, 01 April 2008
The Achitecture of Happiness is a dazzling and generously illustrated journey through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the indelible connection between our identities and our locations.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 is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent. Alain de Botton starts from the idea that where we are heavily influences who we can be, and argues that it is architecture's task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.

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About the Author

Alain de Botton is the author of three works of fiction and five of nonfiction, including How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Consolations of Philosophy, and The Art of Travel. He lives in London.

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De Botton's best-selling The Art of Travel and The Consolations of Philosophy have both been converted into multipart PBS specials, and this newest book is expected to air on PBS as a three-part series in the fall. In it, de Botton explores how humans have related to architecture through the ages. He poses the philosophical question of whether or not the structure of buildings can affect human happiness. Working with the theory that we are very susceptible to our surroundings, de Botton suggests that "bad" architecture can subtly darken our moods, while other forms of architecture can bring us a sense of peace or happiness, as in the case of Europe's majestic cathedrals. De Botton guides us from the 19th century through modernism, providing insights into the meaning of style and abstract shape. Numerous excellent black-and-white photographs of all the major buildings discussed are included. While the presentation is somewhat dry, architecture and history aficionados will appreciate this comprehensive and pictorially enhanced survey. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/06.]-Crystal Renfro, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib. & Information Ctr., Atlanta Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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 2006 Reed Business Information.

"De Botton has a marvelous knack for coming at weighty subjects from entertainingly eccentric angles." --The Seattle Times "An elegant book. . . . Unusual . . . full of big ideas. . . . Seldom has there been a more sensitive marriage of words and images." --The New York Sun "With originality, verve, and wit, de Botton explains how we find reflections of our own values in the edifices we make. . . . Altogether satisfying." --San Francisco Chronicle "De Botton is high falutin' but user friendly. . . . He keeps architecture on a human level." --Los Angeles Times De Botton has a marvelous knack for coming at weighty subjects from entertainingly eccentric angles. The Seattle Times "An elegant book. . . . Unusual . . . full of big ideas. . . . Seldom has there been a more sensitive marriage of words and images." The New York Sun "With originality, verve, and wit, de Botton explains how we find reflections of our own values in the edifices we make. . . . Altogether satisfying." San Francisco Chronicle "De Botton is high falutin' but user friendly. . . . He keeps architecture on a human level." Los Angeles Times" "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 deBotton?" -- "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." -- "Independent" "From the Hardcover edition." " 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 neverunderstood." -- 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." -- "Independent" "From the Hardcover edition."

EAN: 9780307277244
ISBN: 0307277240
Publisher: Random House Inc
Dimensions: 20.37 x 15.39 x 1.52 centimetres (0.36 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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2 review(s)
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Jonnel on
 
Great read and pretty basic stuff on Architectural Theory and the ethics and reasoning why we build. I'm an architecture student and still in my internship phase of my career and this book would be a great gift for your friends who want to understand what you do.

More so in the realm of understanding the abstract concepts of architecture. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know the industry that I'm so deeply involved in and in love with.
Customer on
 
This book is written in a fantastic witty and almost poetic style, de Botton has a very unique approach to architecture and design.
It is educational historically, but more than that the author explains many concepts that people rarely consciously consider.
Architecture's importance is undeniable, it affects our deepest instincts whether we realize it or not - our sense of self, place, identity, security, happiness and hope. Such a deeply practical, even sensible form of design has a very real impact on us intuitively.
De Botton explores these concepts in this simple, beautifully illustrated, and often funny book.
Highly recommended.

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