The Architecture of Happiness | Part 1
What is the true value of architecture? Can great buildings make us great? Probably not. But great buildings can nudge us to be a little better. Alain de Botton writes in his book, The Architecture of Happiness, "Architecture may well possess moral messages; it simply has no power to enforce them. It offers suggestions instead of making laws. It invites, rather than orders, us to emulate its spirit and cannot prevent its own abuse."
There are no doubt a myriad of examples of individuals who live in serene, thoughtful environments who are themselves petty tyrants. This doesn't mean that the building has no value or influence on human life. Each person can choose whether or not to attune themselves with what the building has to say.
De Botton also writes that one cannot truly appreciate beauty until one knows grief. He gives the example of a young, in love couple who visit an art museum. Their own elation at being in love will over-ride any good feeling the piece of art might provide. The same can be said of architecture: "We might, quite aside from all other requirements, need to be a little sad before buildings can properly touch us." It is when we are a little sad that we can more clearly hear what lessons a building might have for us.