In recent years the process of studying architecture and planning has changed substantially. More and more architectural schools (including my own in Argentina) have shifted from a theoretical education, oriented towards the history, philosophy and mathematics of architecture, into a more practical studio-based style of education that, sadly enough, excludes this theoretical approach to the field, focusing on production and marketing and whatever else the computer can render.
In a clear observation of this phenomenon, author Alain de Botton makes us reconsider not only the state of this field, but the need for embracing the theory and criticism that arises from it, together with its philosophical basis. In his book, “The Architecture of Happiness”, de Botton explains architectural history with a kind of ‘crash course’ of its origins and significance, noting that the current production cannot separate itself from these beginnings. By focusing on the progression of the discipline, de Botton reminds us that it is for men and women like us, for humans, that the art of architecture is made for.
This book presents itself as a guide of the best (and worst) in architecture and the relationship that buildings should have with people. De Botton returns us to our homes, our schools, our churches and workplaces, and invites us to talk with them, to recognize them – and what is even more radical – to listen to what buildings have to say to and about us.
Richly illustrated, “The Architecture of Happiness” reintroduces us to the importance of architecture. It reminds us that everything that surrounds us can be designed and can transform itself and transform us into an ideal: the utopia that is the promise of the field and the infinite expansion that it has. Architecture, then, is the beautiful idea of bringing to earth those things located in the world of ideals.
Happiness can be obtained when the world surrounding us smiles at us. For Alain de Botton, architecture is our way to smile back.
What do you think is the best approach to understanding architecture? Is it significant to talk about a philosophical background for our buildings?
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