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4.2 out of 5 stars46
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on 11 February 2009
Alain de Botton probes deeply into our thoughts and ideas about the buildings around us with amazing clarity. He puts words to feelings you might have had in the back of your mind but ignored because you didn't know whether they could be expressed. When you read his words you feel enlightened and grateful for the experience. You go back into the world with a more refined set of tools to process it with.
Most books on architecture are about history and appreciation of aesthetic and cultural details. His book cuts right through that layer. What we find beautiful is the promise of an intelligent kind of happiness. A home should be a setting that reminds us of our deepest, most genuine values, our concern for others and for the environment. What we search for in architecture is not so far from what we search for in a friend.
How wonderful to have these truths subtly and intricately revealed to us as a way of counteracting all the information about fashion and design, pumped into our brains on a daily basis. There are beautiful black and white photos and engravings throughout the book to illustrate his observations.
I loved this book, read it slowly and savoured it and will definitely be reading it again. If people of de Botton's calibre, with such depth, humour and insight, were running the world there would be hope for the human race.
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on 15 June 2006
This book can be considered a well balanced guide to the major philosophical and theoretical debates which affect every architect-in-training in forming their own opinions and which have been debated over the past centuries. Everything from "what is archtitecture" downwards.

Contains just enough of each point of view to enable ideas to be formed, or to guide further research, without telling you what to think. Its a composition rather than a manifesto. Every ten pages or so there is a gem of a quote. And just as you start thinking, "but what does that mean for..." you turn the page and there it is, with quotes and references and everything you need to start making up your own mind.

If as an undergrad you're only likely to read one book on theory this year, and want to avoid becoming a specialist on [insert obscure german author your tutor wants an essay on], read this for the whole picture. Its really accessibly written too. And has pictures (good heavens!). And big margins.
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on 23 April 2006
Botton has often flirted dangerously with a reputation for pretension, fortunately assuaged by his fresh combination of genuine erudition and earthy humour, plus his extraordinarily lucid written style. However, after the wonderfully fluffy 'Art of Travel', his humour deserted him with 'Status Anxiety' , a book which managed to frivolously embroider basic assumptions with faux-sophisticated connections with art and economics.

'The Architecture of Happiness' happily restores Botton's status of benign self-help guru. Still lacking in the humour of earlier works, this volume makes some genuinely profound statements on virtue and beauty as applied to our exteriors and interiors. It is still written in Botton's academic, philanthropic tone and is a real page-turner too.

Recommended.
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on 9 January 2010
An interesting read, but rather than rock any architectural boats it is firmly on the modern architects side.

I suspect the title is specifically chosen to lure in those who wonder why beauty is such an anathema to modern architecture and artists. Alain de Botton seems to be happy to fall into the modern illness of searching for difference rather than asthetics.

Each chapter one gets lifted up by some relevation of why we think the way we do about Architecture only to be flattened by the assurance that we can't have such and such in our day and age.

It is surely not the problem of architecture that it can't produce great modern edifices but that it can't produce humane structures for the everyday person without resort to pastiche or brutalism. At the heart of this is the egotism of architecture which sees it self as an artform rather than a servant to humanity.
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on 9 May 2009
For fans of Alain de Botton's, this book will be just the kind of delightful stuff we've come to expect from him - intelligent, well written stuff and ideas with which one cannot help but agree... extremely useful book even if all you'd want is to understand what beauty is, not only in houses or architecture but also in seemingly non-related areas like art, fashion, or everyday life.

However, it's a great shame that all the pictures are black & white (I have the hardcover edition and I assume the paperback is the same). I don't believe the reasons for this could have been aesthetic, ie how could a painting benefit from being reproduced in black & white? so it must have been done to keep the cost down, and it shows... be prepared for serious and frustrated disappointment because the book is a lot about those particular paintings and works of art. Otherwise it would have gotten 5 stars from me, great content.
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on 4 October 2009
Being an architect student, i was looking to expand my knowledge on architecture and also wanted to see this from a philosopher's point of view. I found that De Botton is very knowledgeable in this subject and has a good understanding of architecture. However some chapter's were more useful than others, a very easy read and very interesting. But i read this after i read "Space and the Architect" by Herman Hertzberger, which is much more helpful to architecture students and everyone in general
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on 18 July 2010
De Botton's book was enjoyable to read, though I never really found any resolution to the questions he posed. Sometimes, he seems to contradict himself. Throughout the beginning of the book, de Botton champions many elements of Classical architecture (in the process castigates--deservedly in my opinion--Le Courbusier's architecture and methods, pp. 54-67). Later in the book, de Botton tells the reader what structures are "successful": terribly modern edifices are praised which seems counter-intuitive based on the first half of the book. On p. 199, "Like Kahn's Yale Center, Herzog and de Meuron's house achieves its effect by weaving a pattern of beauty from two aesthetic strands-meaning, also, two varieties of happiness..." He tells us that we admire bridges as "a certain kind of beauty is bound up with our admiration for strength, for man-made objects which can withstand the life-destroying forces of heat, cold, gravity or wind...we see beauty in sea defences that shrug off the waves which batter them, and in bolts, rivets, cables, beams and buttresses...(p. 204).

De Botton's work was interesting until p. 166 when he writes about psychological mechanisms and our appreciation of architecture. The train quickly derails and many untenable claims are made. I expected a bit more from a trained philosopher (he holds a Master's Degree in Philosophy, as I understand). I wonder why de Botton decided to confront this topic with a superficial knowledge of architecture; he relies on meandering philosophical arguments to explain what beauty is (though the arguments are wholly unconvincing and certainly not logical). Most of the claims are based on appeals to the reader's emotions. The book is 267 pages of text, much of which is simple prose (though entertaining at times).

Overall the effort is interesting at best, dilettantish at worst.
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on 24 March 2015
This is definitely one of his best books. Yet again he approaches his subject with a learned clarity and keeps his subject fascinating whilst pulling out plenty of useful and enlightening insights that allow you to see things in a different and refreshing way.
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on 19 March 2011
I enjoyed this rather more than other AdB's that I've read recently. He has a lovely way with words, and he's good at both quoting aphorisms and making them up. This is not a serious study of architecture or of town planning, both of which it dips into. If you really want to know about either, read something else. It's not even a great introduction, because it doesn't point towards more substantial works - it's a bit like watching a TV programme. If you just want a nodding acquaintance with some of the issues, and the chance to feel that you have engaged with the question of aesthetics, then this is the book for you.

But I have to add one special mention; I really loved the redefinition of gossip as 'vernacular ethical philosophy'. I'll use that in future.
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on 15 February 2015
Beautiful. Three stars because I felt the author lost interest before I did. Should have been half the length; the first half. Almost perfection at points.
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