It’s a nice book title isn’t it? The Architecture of Happiness is a book written by Alain de Botton. I decided to get a little creative with the blog prompt, and randomly picked a stack in the library to choose a book from. I made a few circles around different parts of the library, and eventually ended up on Lower Level 1 amongst the books on art.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but the aesthetics of this particular book is what originally drew me to it. It’s a small book, so it looked miniature next to its neighbors. The cover is simple and serene – depicting a cottage like house nestled in the trees with smoke coming out of its chimney and a sketch of a very modern looking home. I then turned the book over to find some reviews. The first thing I saw read: “Virtually every page contains a sentence an essayist would have been proud to have written.” I was immediately sold. Since I consider myself a writer, I am often more interested in the language and the style of writing than I am in plot or contents.
Call me old fashion, but I actually love reading physical books. My mom tried to give me a kindle that she had gotten for free somewhere, but I turned it down. There’s something about the experience of touching a book and turning its pages that is so much more personalized than reading words off a screen and clicking a button to turn the page.
“Belief in the significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are, for better or for worse, different people in different places – and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be” (pg. 13). I found these words in the opening chapter of the book, and after flipping through it a bit, I think this is the core of de Botton’s thesis.
This book is essentially architecture meets philosophy. It’s a thought provoking idea that we are different people in different places. I agree with de Botton on this, and got to thinking about my own life and the places I have found myself in.
I didn’t know too many of you that well before senior year, but those who did know me can attest to the fact that I came back from studying abroad a new person. It may sound cliché, but I honestly think its true. Here’s an example. Sounds superficial at first, but hear me out. I used to have pin straight hair – practically damaged every strand from obsessively using a straightening iron multiple times a day. Every piece had to be perfectly placed. I let it go while I was abroad and returned to my natural waves. You may perceive it as a style choice – but subconsciously, I think what happened is that I set myself free a bit while I was abroad. I’ve always been type A, I’ve always been one to stress, but studying abroad I realized there were more important things to be spending my time on. Exploring the city of Bath, meeting locals, traveling….the list is endless. I had never looked at my surroundings as closely as I did while I was abroad. I started noticing small details, I started recognizing beauty in things I probably never would have paid attention to before. It sounds dorky, but sometimes I take strolls on Google Earth through the streets of Bath to remind myself of this place.
I feared that once returning to America, this newfound self would disappear. Luckily, I think I’ve maintained it. That makes me ask a question in response to The Architecture of Happiness – if we are different people in different places, is it possible that once the architecture of somewhere, wherever that may be, allows us to find “who we might ideally be,” we carry that with us no matter where we find ourselves?