Brief Book Review: The Architecture of Happiness

So, after something on the order of 5 months of reading, I finally finished Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness. I read it slowly not because it was a slog, not because I forced myself to get through it, but because it was truly delightful, and structured in a way that invites savoring in bite-size morsels. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read of late, and a real treat for anyone interested in design and/or architecture.

What impressed me most about the book was de Botton’s dedication to plumbing the depths of architectural history, considering that he’s not an architect, nor even a design critic, typically. He just seems to be a smart guy who writes books on subjects that intrigue, and it’s to our benefit that he chose a great topic with Architecture. He appreciates the prevalence of architecture in our lives, and the power it can have on us, our moods, our behavior… But because he’s not an architect, he doesn’t get caught up in the bullshit that practicing designers spread when talking about their stuff (and I’m as guilty of that as anyone).

What really puts the book over the top are the photographs used to illustrate points. I don’t know where or how he found his imagery (I’m guessing research assistants), but their appropriateness, and their own beauty, make taking in this book a singular pleasure.

4 thoughts on “Brief Book Review: The Architecture of Happiness

  1. I’m about halfway through my copy, and I’ve been reading it now for about 6 months. You hit the nail right on the head. I find myself putting it down and for days thinking about the small section i read.

  2. If you like de Botton, and are interested in reading something similar-minded, but wholly from within the realm of architecture practice, you should check out Paul Shepheard’s books (What is Architecture?, The Cultivated Wilderness, and Artifical Love (all from MIT Press). His website is http://www.paulshepheard.com

  3. If architecture influences our happiness (and I couldn’t agree more) then houses designed on Cycladic architecture must have happiest residents.

    It’s just so stunningly beautiful… makes me want to move to Santorini.

  4. Hey, Peter. It’s good to see you like real architecture too. ;)

    I posted on the book as well last year. http://metrozoe.blogspot.com/2007/01/architects-and-self-knowledge.html#links
    It is a pretty amazing book.

    I hope all is well in SF
    -Mark