The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton

Architecture of Happiness
Architecture of Happiness

I recently read Alain de Botton’s ‘The Architecture of Happiness”- part of my backlog crunch list. I bought this book way back in 2011 from a bookstore in Kanchanaburi, Thailand and it only took me about 4 years to get to it. I’m sure there are other books that have been waiting longer but anyway this post is not about my book queue.

This book isn’t a history of architecture or a narrative of its evolution. It’s more a meditation on what resonates with us in architecture. Mostly we like a particular style of architecture when we feel it resonates with the values we hold dear or it represents the ambitions that we cherish. And on the flip side we are not comfortable with styles that represent values or ideals that are far from our own. As a converse to this theory, we build in styles that that most reflect the values we wish to be portrayed and hence the styles that vary every few years.

East Mebon, Siem Reap Cambodia
East Mebon, Siem Reap Cambodia

The kings and nobles of ancient eras who built glorious monuments- temples, towers and tombs- were truly aspiring for their place in the sky.

One of the points that de Botton raises in a few places in his book is the impact that pain and suffering has on our appreciation of the beauty around us. “It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value” he says. While do agree that pain can heighten our perception, add that supplementary filter that makes us recognise beauty in all things I wonder if we are really incapable of appreciating beauty when we are happy. I think that joy as much as pain can enhance how we perceive beautiful things around us.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. ashokbhatia says:

    Not easy to say either way, I guess. A thing of beauty is a joy for ever, said the poet. If we are in pain, are we not less likely to notice beauty around us? If we are in extreme bliss, likewise. We are perhaps more conscious of beauty when we are reasonably happy and in a relaxed state of mind. When the heart is in a satisfied frame and we are feeling good towards things around us – perhaps that is the time we are most likely to notice beauty and appreciate it.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      That’s an interesting perspective Ashok!

  2. neihtn2012 says:

    I agree with you Sukanya.

  3. Lav says:

    Pain is a stimulant for observation. We ask why and we observe, hoping for answer. Bliss rarely has us asking why.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      I guess so!

  4. Nirmala says:

    I feel that in contented, happy state of mind we can observe better and appreciate things than when we are unhappy

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      I guess each emotion filters what we observe around us

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