Architecture and Anger

Interesting piece from Christopher Hume yesterday examining Alain de Botton’s new book The Architecture of Happiness.  The basic idea is that architecture has the power to influence our emotions positively or negatively (or in Toronto’s case, not at all).  De Botton points to the shift towards modernism in the 20th century, the advent of the automobile, and the decline of female influences in architecture as examples of where missteps occurred.

The result? Architects who engage in “endless ‘professional posturing’ and the absence of beauty as a goal of architecture.”  We are left with architecture that rarely makes our spirits soar, often angers us and typically leaves us unimpressed.  Think of your typical reaction to this scenario: a mid-rise historical skyscraper is slated for demolition; the replacement, a towering glass cube bereft of character, architectural details and, yes, emotion.  I tend to experience equal amounts of despair and resignation when this scene plays out, as it does many times in a city such as Toronto.

What is the solution?  De Botton recommends limiting Toronto developers to nine (why nine? Is 10 too many, eight not enough?)  building models in order to create a cohesive sense of order as the city grows.  I would argue that more needs to be done, including better controlling how a development engages the street (human scale footprints at the base, mixed uses encouraging working/shopping/playing) and tighter controls on what historical preservation really means.  Currently, if a developer wants to replace a historical property, basic nods to the original design are all that is required (retain the facade, emulate stylistic touches).  I would like to see this go deeper, with full rehabilitation and integration of historical buildings into designs.

Can architecture make us angry or happy? Anyone who has lived in large city likely has a favourite building and most hated building.   For me, every time I go past the Art Gallery of Ontario it makes me happy:

From James' flickr set: http://bit.ly/42n2iP

What makes me mad?  Stuff like this (Glen Lake development on the west side of the city):

Any buildings in your city you love or love to hate? Share the link in the comments.

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6 responses to “Architecture and Anger”

  1. Rob says :

    What a nice picture of the West Toronto Minimum Security Criminal Rehabilitation Centre!

  2. Ben says :

    It’s so nice that people PAY to be incarcerated!

  3. Mark says :

    oh, man. I need to bring my camera to work tomorrow.

  4. jimsey says :

    I did not authorize that picture!

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