By Shamsudeen Sani

Author: Alaine De Botton

Date of Publication 2006. 280 pages

This might certainly be an unusual book for many. Unless if your bookish content diet is out of whack like mine, chances are that you may not like ‘The Architecture of Happiness’. After reading this book, I no longer see the buildings around me the same.

Ever wondered why you feel mentally different after being outside your home for a while? This sometimes ends up being described as…well..nostalgia. Has it ever occurred to you why buildings around us have different shapes and form and they evoke different emotions? Have you thought about the behind the scene meanings for architectural tapestry in our daily lives? That’s what Alaine de Botton dealt extensively with in this thought-provoking book.

Philosophically, the book explored how architectural beauty standards change over time with the attendant geographic variations. It takes us through the historical details of how the buildings around us changed over the course of time and the overall influence that has on our overall wellbeing.

Fascinatingly, the author took a deep dive to discuss how principally buildings convey messages through multiple streams of forms. Starting with our tendency to equate buildings to living being, he provided lucid real examples of some suggestions of living things in the architecture around us that evoke varying forms of emotions. There were graphic examples of penguins in our water jugs and stout and graceful deer in our desks. Secondly, the book argues that even when the architecture around us doesn’t look anything like people or animals, it might metaphorically evoke feelings and again with articulate examples. Lastly, architecture communicates feeling as a result of reference or a quotation. This way buildings trigger memories and feelings with particular reference to the context in which we had previously come in contact with them.

From another perspective, the book emphasized the notion of how are different people in different buildings for better for worse with a compelling argument of the role of architecture in determining the course of our emotions. The author provided classic examples of the architecture in religious buildings. Weirdly, (at least for me) the book also treated how grief can be a pre-requisite to appreciation of architecture around us as well as dealing with what humans equate as the universal standards of beauty in architecture and how those overall relate to our happiness.

The style used by the author is uniquely persuasive with fantastic imagery as examples and with interesting storytelling approach aimed directly at the reader.

Alaine De Button is a British philosopher and a best-selling author and acclaimed to have tremendously made philosophy accessible to the wider world through his books.

Writing my thoughts about this book, I can go on and on. But until another chance, that just about does it!


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