Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Perfect Home, based on Architecture of Happiness" by Alain de Botton, Channel 4

video topic: analyzing architecture
video type: documentary
video no: 05

architect featured: mixed
video title: The Perfect Home
video series: The Perfect Home
inspired by: the book "Architecture of Happiness" by Alain de Botton  
Presenter: Alain de Botton
Directed by:
Studio: Channel 4
Original run: May 1, 2006 – May 3, 2006

episode: 3
run time: 47 minutes each
file size: 1.16 gb


description and preview:

The Perfect Home is a television series of three 42 minute episodes commissioned for Channel 4 based on the book The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton which first aired in 2006

In the programmes, Alain de Botton explored the importance of innovative architecture for homes. He offered criticism of modern developments that build in an idealized fake heritage style, which he referred to as pastiche, often referring back to the example of Great Notley Garden Village near Braintree, Essex.

The first programme looks at how the current status quo came about where volume builders are typically building houses with architectural styles harking back to pre-industrial eras such as mock Tudor, neo-Georgian and mock country cottage fa├žades.

The second looks at what defines a building's beauty, drawing parallels with the differences between the Catholic and Protestant ideals in their respective places of worship, suggesting the comparison was a trade off between decoration versus a more utilitarian approach.

The third programme looks at how the current situation could be improved, with de Botton's preferred option being that buildings' architecture should reflect the era in which they are built. To this end, he approached Bellway Homes with examples of more contemporary designs being used on in The Netherlands as a suggested alternative. Bellway's reaction was quite positive, and they have incorporated more contemporary designs into their Ravenswood development on the former Ipswich Airport site in Suffolk.

Channel 4 review:

Date Published:    27/05/2008

Alain talks about the role architecture plays in our everyday lives and how buildings can affect our moods and general wellbeing... .

Can beautiful houses make us happy?

Beauty has a huge role to play in altering our mood. When we call a chair or a house beautiful, really what we're saying is that we like the way of life it's suggesting to us. It has an attitude we're attracted to: if it was magically turned into a person, we'd like who it was. It would be convenient if we could remain in much the same mood wherever we happened to be, in a cheap motel or a palace (think of how much money we'd save on redecorating our houses), but unfortunately we're highly vulnerable to the coded messages that emanate from our surroundings. This helps to explain our passionate feelings towards matters of architecture and home decoration: these things help to decide who we are.

Of course, architecture can't on its own always make us into contented people. Witness the dissatisfactions that can unfold even in idyllic surroundings. One might say that architecture suggests a mood to us, which we may be too internally troubled to be able to take up. Its effectiveness could be compared to the weather: a fine day can substantially change our state of mind – and people may be willing to make great sacrifices to be nearer a sunny climate.

Then again, under the weight of sufficient problems (romantic or professional confusions, for example), no amount of blue sky, and not even the greatest building, will be able to make us smile. Hence the difficulty of trying raise architecture into a political priority: it has none of the unambiguous advantages of clean drinking water or a safe food supply. And yet it remains vital.

Why are we drawn to old-fashioned buildings? What it is about modern architecture that people don't like?

People's taste tells us a lot about what's missing from their lives. People who decorate their homes with dolls and teddies are often escaping from something overly harsh and cruel in their lives, while those whose houses are white and completely empty are using their decorative scheme to keep at bay feelings of chaos and disorder. So why do so many people of us in the UK love old-fashioned things? This isn't a sign that we're actually rural, backward looking people.

Rather we're nostalgic for a rural past, precisely because we're now so far from having rural, rustic lives. We want to get away from what we feel we already have enough of: technology, concrete and high-tech. Many people hate modern architecture precisely because it doesn't help them to rebalance their psyches. It seems to offer them more of what they have had too much of as it is.

Why do couples disagree about sofas and crockery and what does this say about them/their relationship?

It's far from trivial to spend a long time arguing over a sofa or a plate. That's because a particular sofa can suggest a whole way of life, an attitude to existence, and it's really the struggle over what's meaningful and worthwhile that lies at the heart of people's disagreements in the aisles of homeware shops.

Of an angular steel-legged sofa by a modern Italian design company like B&B Italia, a man might say, 'I love this sofa', but really, he is drawn to qualities of order, logic and rationality which this piece suggests to him. Meanwhile, his wife may kick up a fuss precisely because she hates all the sofa-like sides of her husband – and would love to infuse their marriage with the virtues of calm, sweetness and romanticism that she detects in a contrasting 18th century style chaise longue. The fights that unfold in furniture stores are hence entirely logical: a lot is truly at stake. We shouldn't feel embarrassed about going off someone because of their taste in sofas, or on someone because of their taste in mugs.

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Episode 1
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part 2 :
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Episode 2
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Episode 3
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