The biggest problem in architecture today is that nobody can agree on
what's good or beautiful and what's bad or ugly. It's a situation in which
creative architects are often viewed with distrust by the public, and vice
versa. De Botton's is a book that both sides can read with profit. It can
bring them a little closer to consensus.
De Botton is an outsider in relation to architecture. Outsiders often see
a subject more clearly than people who are up to their necks in it. The
British author V.S. Pritchett said that best, in his autobiography: "For
myself that is what a writer is -- a man living on the other side of a
I can't recommend this book too highly. It gets just about everything
right. I do suggest that the reader skim Chapter One . Chapter Two, on the
other hand, which is titled "In What Style Shall We Build?," is a
remarkable potted history of Western architecture.