Thursday 2 May 2013

Book Review- The Architecture of Happiness

One of my current sites is in Noida, so at least once a week I take the Metro from Gurgaon, where I live, to Noida. It’s about a two hour ride with a change at the halfway mark. Strangely enough, I love this weekly journey in the metro, because it gives me a chance to catch up on reading, something that I normally never get down to doing at home.

I recently completed Alain De Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness and have to say it was an amazing read. The book looks at how we are influenced by the architecture around us and how architecture speaks to us. The author looks into the reasons why we are touched or awed by certain architecture, and how architecture in turn, is influenced by society – its hopes and dreams and ambitions.

Why do I like this book so much? Well I think it’s beautifully written for starters. Admittedly, I am a bit of a dreamer so I loved the language, even if at times it borders on being a little high flown. Most of all, I loved the way it made me question why I consider something beautiful. The book makes you consider what subconscious emotion great architecture touches within an individual or a society. 

While the author doesn't prescribe a formula for how buildings should look in order to be considered beautiful, he does examine buildings that are considered beautiful, and tries to define the qualities that perhaps make them so. Another plus is that The Architecture of Happiness is well illustrated, with photographs underscoring each point the author tries to make.

I’m quite picky about books, if I’m not hooked by the first 2 chapters, then I’m done. With this book, I think I was hooked from the very first page, where in part one, De Bottom speaks about a house as though it is a living breathing entity. I thought it was beautiful and thought provoking. It really made me think of my house, the house I grew up in, and the stories it could tell, the wisdom it could impart, like some sort of great elderly statesman who has seen it all.

I would recommend this book to all architecture buffs who are also dreamers at heart.

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