Architecture of happy-enough-ness

July 29th, 2008 by amy

I love the building where I work. Even after almost four years I’m still routinely struck by the little details which make it so interesting and beautiful.

In The Architecture of Happiness Alain de Botton notes:

Belief in the significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are, for better and for worse, different people in different places – and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be…

However, architecture is perplexing in how inconsistent is its capacity to generate the happiness on which its claim to our attention is founded. While an attractive building may on occasion flatter an ascending mood, there will be times when the most congenial of locations will be unable to dislodge our sadness or misanthropy.

We can feel anxious and envious even though the floor we’re standing on has been imported from a remote quarry, and finely sculpted window frames have been painted a soothing grey. Our inner metronome can be unimpressed by the efforts of workmen to create a fountain or nurture a symmetrical line of oak trees. We can fall into a petty argument which ends in threats of divorce in a building by Geoffrey Bawa or Louis Kahn. Houses can invite us to join them in a mood which we find ourselves incapable of summoning. The noblest architecture can sometimes do less for us than a siesta or an aspirin…

Beautiful architecture has none of the unambiguous advantages of a vaccine or a bowl of rice. Its construction will hence never be raised to a dominant political priority, for even if the whole of the man-made world could, through relentless effort and sacrifice, be modelled to rival Saint Mark’s Square, even if we could spend the rest of our lives in the Villa Rotonda or the Glass House, we would still often be in a bad mood.

As ever, de Botton explores the sublime potentials and bleak pragmatics of his subject thoroughly. I’m sure I don’t do credit to this beautiful building by the moods, depressions, tempers, silliness or pettinesses I indulge in here but just now at least I found simply walking around it enough of a distraction to make me grateful for it.

One Response to “Architecture of happy-enough-ness”

  1. mauro Says:

    Beautiful pictures Amy. Yes, that building is awesome. It makes me happy every time I walk in, and working is just fun inside those strangely shaped offices.

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