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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's underneath our ideas about architecture and design?
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...
Published on 11 Feb. 2009 by Jennifer Sundberg

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A confused, but enjoyable attempt
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...
Published on 18 July 2010 by M. Hamann


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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's underneath our ideas about architecture and design?, 11 Feb. 2009
By 
Jennifer Sundberg (Sweden) - See all my reviews
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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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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All architecture students should read, 15 Jun. 2006
By 
Andrew (Bath, England, UK) - See all my reviews
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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73 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Literature of Redemption, 23 April 2006
By 
P. Badham "Book Mite" (UK) - See all my reviews
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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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a critic of modern architecture, 9 Jan. 2010
By 
Stephen J. Mason "sjmason6074" (isle of arran, scotland) - See all my reviews
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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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A confused, but enjoyable attempt, 18 July 2010
By 
M. Hamann "Markus" (Finland) - See all my reviews
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars A book with a view, 14 Mar. 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed Alain de Botton's book on the psychology and philosophy of architecture. As a book I read for pleasure, rather than associated with study, I found that the structure worked very well. The author meanders around some of the questions and issues that have confronted those involved in architecture for centuries and offers views, further questions and sometimes conclusions. What do human beings seek in buildings? What are architectural ideals and how do these change over time? What role does the provenance of the architect or the context of the building play?

Maybe it would have been valuable to have clearer sections on the different purpose of buildings - as homes, as places of worship or as places of work. I would find it particularly interesting to see how a building conceived as a church can later metamorphose into a home - or how, with an increasing blur between workplace and home, a "home office" can be designed. In addition, although the book is sub-titled "The Secret Art of Furnishing Your Life", there is little within about actual furnishings and interior decoration - maybe the subject for a future book?

As with all this author's books, the intelligent and joyful writing elevates you into another sphere of consciousness which has you looking far more closely at the buildings around you the next time you are out and about.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Raises interesting questions, but a hard slog for me, 14 Mar. 2010
By 
I. Holder (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
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I just could not get into this book: perhaps I tried to read it at the wrong time; perhaps I'm just not that interested. A surprise, as most of Alain de Botton' other books have sucked me in immediately and I had trouble putting them down ["The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" was the only other one that I struggled through at the time].

It has its interests, and eccentricities [some very strange, to my mind!, designs:], and Alain de Botton's insights, as always, are quite profound and challenging: with this one the emphasis being that architecture is not simply a design out of nowhere,but shows who we are ansd what our beliefs are; and moreso, that is can make us feel a certain way. Interesting in a way, but it just didn't grab me.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best but overall a very good summary of architectural ideas!!, 4 Oct. 2009
By 
A Singh (UK) - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant Idea but ..., 20 Jan. 2014
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First problem is the small print. I haven't actually managed to read much of this book as it is such a strain to see it.
Also feel that Alain de Botton could have got a lot more out of this idea.
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5.0 out of 5 stars De Botton on good form., 24 Mar. 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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