The philosophy of everyday life.

Journalist

The philosophy of everyday life.

Everyday Life

The architecture of happiness

For Frances

Amsterdam- 24 Feb. 2021– Marvel about love, for example. Or else go travel, roam the world and search for the unveiling of these questions in your quest for love and happiness.

My hero Alain de Botton makes that possible.

First amazes us about space, about the fact that a beautiful space evokes a feeling of happiness. But also about the limitations of this beautiful space on our happiness. 

“A beautiful space cannot change our mood,” he says, ” let alone our actions.” Those are his words. 

The same space that at one moment offers us a feeling of happiness can just as easily accommodate an argument and / or gloomy thoughts. And a beautiful palace does not make a dictator change his mind. 

Yet he is convinced that a beautiful space contributes to our happiness and his quest in this book is therefore: what is a beautiful space? What is architecture about? About humanity? Is it about honesty about happiness or other values and norms? How can you hold onto it and direct your life accordingly? How changeable is that feeling? How is it different from yesterday? Or from the day before yesterday? Isn’t architecture about more things than the promise of happiness? 

The ultimate goal is a good, satisfied and happy life.  A life to fully enjoy. 

This can be achieved by living according to certain virtues: order, harmony, elegance, cohesion and finally a virtue for the designer: self-knowledge. 

Because bad architecture comes about because architects don’t know themselves well. Design means unlearning what we think we know, patiently dissecting the mechanisms behind our reflexes, and permeating ourselves with the mystery and astonishing complexity of our daily actions. 

My other hero the 19th century author Stendhal writes that there are as many kinds of beauty as there are ideas of happiness. It is only natural that different people are also attracted to different forms of architecture. 

Are you attracted to cosiness, simplicity, richness, excitement or tranquility? 

He also believes that a sense of beauty can be developed. Ethics of virtue is based on a kind of learning process: history teaches that living a virtuous life is not easy. 

It is averse to direct satisfaction of needs. 

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As an example, de Botton puts forward the Japanese preference for the imperfect. 

He quotes the Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizaki: ” We, the Japanese, are not easily comfortable with things that shine brightly. The Westerner uses tableware made of silver and steel and nickel, which he polishes to a beautiful shine, but we have something against that. Although we also sometimes use silver for tea kettles, carafes or sake bowls, we prefer not to pot it. On the contrary, we only start to appreciate them when they have become dull, when a dark, gray patina has appeared on them. ” As early as the Middle Ages, Japanese poets and Zen priests introduced their fellow countrymen to the beauty of the everyday, of simple, unedited and transient things. The lesson we can learn from Japan is that we can learn to appreciate a beauty that we were initially unfamiliar with. 

De Botton uses the above example against the arguments of many project developers. They are all too quick to argue that the gaudy villas they sell are apparently the only thing people love or can love, after all they sell like hot cakes? 

He is aware that this question is not done. 

Anyone who is modern and chique, he says, will find the question of beauty a difficult, even unanswerable question. 

How could we determine what is beautiful, let alone what someone else should like? This thought passes through the Renaissance, Romanticism to Modernism in which the demand for beauty has been replaced by the idea that form should not be determined by the will to form, but by use. 

For architects, of course, history is a piece of cake, but for the general public it might be a nice insight into the contemporary debate about architecture. 

Stendhal: “Beauty is the promise of happiness. The idea of what is beautiful is entwined with the idea of what is a good and satisfactory life. 

In other words, through materials, shapes and colors, architecture refers to qualities such as love, kindness, goodness, delicacy, strength and intelligence, according to De Botton.

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