Can A Building Make You Happy?

Mark Busse – No Comments


I love architecture. Heck, at one point in my life my goal was to become an architect. So when I was invited to attend an installment of CBC’s Studio One Book Club to meet and hear renowned philosopher and historian Alain de Botton discuss his new book The Architecture of Happiness, I was hooked.

The author of five best-selling books including Status Anxiety, The Art of Travel, How Proust Can Change Your Life, and The Consolations of Philosophy, Botton’s latest work serves as an exploration into how architecture speaks to us and affects all aspects of human life. The Architecture of Happiness examines how architecture, and the influences of design from various cultures, shape our happiness.

Now, I’ll admit I’m no philosophy expert or Proust devotee, so I can’t comment about his other works, but I can tell you that this book is as easy to read and entertaining as it is enlightening. With humour and an amazing ability to simplify complex concepts, Booton shows us how our surroundings serve as guardians of our identity, both as groups and individuals. It’s the kind of book that makes you realize how little you really knew about architecture and its role in your life.

Botton is a fascinating man in person. He’s humble, soft spoken and rather ordinary at first glance. But let him at the mic and he’ll regale you with his thought-provoking perspectives as he challenges long-standing paradigms in fascinating ways.

And yes, a building CAN bring you happiness, just as it can make you feel sombre or filled with awe. Just ask the kids giggling in the booth next to you in McDonald’s or consider your mood change when you enter a Gothic cathedral. Its a shame so much architecture these days is purely about function now and no longer designed to create a reaction in its users. I wonder…had I actually become an architect, would I have been able to make buildings that made people ‘feel’?