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.
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.