The Architecture of Happiness
It's design award season--I was in the magazine's D.C. office last
week to help with the Custom Home Design Awards, and I'll be back again
next week for the Residential Architect Design Awards--so it's a good
time to ask why we care so much about beauty in architecture. By
chance, I came across a book that addresses just that question: "The Architecture of Happiness" by Alain de Botton.
asserts that our buildings reflect the virtues to which we aspire in
ourselves. We need fine, orderly, dignified buildings to constantly
remind us of, and call us toward, our better selves.
depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we
respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold
us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of
ourselves. We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us
what we need--but are at constant risk of forgetting we need--within.
We turn to wallpaper, benches, paintings and streets to staunch the
disappearance of our true selves.
For those of us
who toil at creating and understanding beautiful architecture--and
sometimes wonder if it serves more than vanity--it is good to be
reminded that there is a higher purpose involved. --Bruce D. Snider