The Architecture of Happiness | Lost Worlds

Been doing a bit of work for Greenbelt, writing invites for speakers etc. One of the people I’ve been in contact with is Alain de Botton, who’s last book Status Anxiety I quoted in the book.

He has a new book forthcoming, called The Architecture of Happiness. The blurb:

What makes a house beautiful? Is it serious to spend your time thinking about home decoration? Why do people disagree about taste? And can buildings make us happy? In “The Architecture of Happiness”, Alain de Botton tackles a relationship central to our lives. Our buildings – and the objects we fill them with – affect us more profoundly than we might think.

To take architecture seriously is to accept that we are, for better and for worse, different people in different places. De Botton suggests that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be.

If it is architecture’s task to ‘render vivid to us who we might ideally be’, then the spaces we create for our gatherings are very important. I’ve also been reading Bywater’s excellent Lost Worlds, which is basically a taxonomy of loss. Melancholic, funny and outrageous in turn, his entry on churches particularly caught my eye:

Churches […] no longer can encompass any human grandeur of aspiration. It only two models for any sort of ultramundane dignity are the Municipal Utilitarian and the Executive Hotel.

What have we lost, that this is what things have come to? Perhaps what we have lost is the model for our being. Once we aspired to the condition of Gods. Now we aspire to the condition of computers.

Having spent the last week doing DIY, I’ve been reflecting that sometimes the Emerging Church has been about creating personal spaces within which we try to render vivid who we want God to be. Rather than working to render public spaces of awe and mystery; cathedrals not low-ceilinged industrial units.

At Vaux we used to dub ourselves ‘Worship Architects’. Encompassed in that was a desire to create spaces within which people could worship, but not direct them exactly how to. But the relationship between the architecture of a space and behaviour within it is more complex. And in future we’ll need to bear that in mind in the spaces we create.

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3 responses to “The Architecture of Happiness | Lost Worlds”

  1. oooh. a tastey tastey entry. and one I’ll come back to, perhaps even share some words. busy busy now, but a nice distraction. thankyou.

  2. Barry Taylor

    Status Anxiety was great–look forward to the new one–Winfired Gallagher has a book just out called, House Thinking: A room by room look at how we live-she is focusing on the insides of the home–a nice compliment to de Boton’s work–she also wrote Working on God and Spiritual Genius both of which are quite interesting reads on the american religious situation–hope all is well and that we’ll get to meet up again soon. Barry

  3. Sound like excellent books – have to look them up. Spiritual Genius is a great title!
    Be good to catch up soon,