Monday, March 9, 2009

The Architecture of Happiness

Title: The Architecture of Happiness
Author: Alain de Botton
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 2006
Category: Non-fiction
Number of Pages: 280
Price: Paperback Canadian $22.99

What this Book is About:
This book considers how the beauty and design of our surroundings interplay to affect our moods and emotions. We may not always be aware of architecture but we are affected by it.

Why I Chose This Book:
After I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand in my teens, I wanted to become an architect. I studied architecture but transferred into arts when my illusions about the profession were shattered by reality. But I've always had a great fondness for architecture and when I read a very positive review of this book, I went out to buy a copy.

Favourite Passage:
"The buildings we admire are ultimately those which, in a variety of ways, extol values we think worthwhile -- which refer, that is, whether through their materials, shapes or colours, to such legendarily positive qualities as friendliness, kindness, subtlety, strength and intelligence. Our sense of beauty and our understanding of the nature of a good life are intertwined. We seek associations of peace in our bedrooms, metaphors for generosity and harmony in our chairs, and an air of honesty and forthrightness in our taps. We can be moved by a column that meets a roof with grace, by worn stone steps that hint at wisdom and by a Georgian doorway that demonstrates playfulness and courtesy in its fanlight window." (page 98)

Rating: MUST READ!
This book is both well-written and witty. Using a multitude of photos to support his arguments and convey specific principles of design, Alain de Botton helps the reader understand the importance of our surroundings in shaping our identity. I especially enjoyed his writings on beauty applying Stendhal's motto that "beauty is the promise of happiness". One need not be a fan of architecture to enjoy this perceptive and original book.

While writing my review, I noted that Alain de Botton is also the author of books on Proust (How Proust Can Change Your Life), travel (The Art of Travel), and philosophy (The Consolations of Philosophy). I'll read anything if it is well-written and given his superlative skill at conveying his ideas, I'll be looking for his other titles.