Saturday, October 14, 2006

Architecture of Happiness affirms beauty’s role

"For the soul, then, beauty is not defined as pleasantness of form but rather as the quality in things that invites absorption and contemplation." Thomas Moore - Care of the Soul

Alain de Botton’s most recent book, The Architecture of Happiness explores the effect our physical environment has on our moods. Christopher Hume, the Toronto Star’s architecture critic spoke with de Botton recently before the author presented at the city’s Design Exchange. According to Hume, de Botton posits "we inhabit a world of architectural degradation and outright ugliness. Our cities...seem designed to put us on edge."
"Sitting in a downtown Toronto hotel room earlier this week, the 36-year-old author had to look no farther than his window to make his point. "This looks like an argument between a group of bad-tempered people," he said, pointing to the city below. "One look out this window and immediately the eye is anxious. It's complete chaos."
Hume’s column, aptly called, "Feeling cranky? Blame the architect" touches on sentiments about our physical surroundings, shared by Thomas Moore.

According to de Botton we must "repair the damage done to cities since the end of World War II" and architects must change. Hume says that de Botton "worries about the endless "professional posturing" and the absence of beauty as a goal of architecture."
"Beauty is the first thing ordinary men and women care about. But it's the last thing you can talk about in architectural circles. Words like beautiful, pretty and sweet have good and important meanings, but we're not allowed to use them."
De Botton regards architecture as "a male-dominated profession given to empty macho bravura," according to Hume.
"The feminine disappeared from 20th-century architecture. My hope for the 21st is that the feminine will reassert itself."
In 1915, architect Bernard Maybeck juxtaposed two of Thomas Moore's loves in a lecture about architecture,
" is necessary to assume that the hearers admit there are mental processes not to be expressed in language. The first example that comes to our mind is the process of understanding music. Stone and wood construction proper bears the same relation to architecture that the piano, for instance, does to the music played upon it. -- Music and architecture are vehicles of expression for phases of our human experience."