Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture project - a joyful, democratically-minded concept to share quality architecture in the UK - was borne out of personal crisis. The Swiss-born philosopher and author gained fame in both popular and architectural circles following the release of his book, "The Architecture of Happiness."
The book was immediately successful (movie buffs may recall its brief cameo in the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer), but the response unsettled Botton. “...However pleasing it is two write a book about an issue one feels passionately about," he explained to Assemble Papers, "the truth is that - a few exceptions aside - books don’t change anything. I realized that if I cared so much about architecture, writing was a coward’s way out; the real challenge was to build.”
The challenge of designing a house with a tight budget and space constraints, together with the essential duty of responding correctly to the requirements of the user, is sometimes one of the most challenging and motivating tasks an architect can face. How can you take advantage of space most effectively? How can you avoid wasted material? How do you anticipate the possible future expansion of the house? And how do you develop a simple design that also delivers value to its inhabitants?
To help you in this process, we scoured our projects archives to select 30 houses that provide interesting architectural solutions despite measuring less than 100 square meters.
Hugo Oliveira: Architects like Alison and Peter Smithson believed that they could transform people’s lives for the better through architecture. Is this sort of innocence important?
Alain de Botton: The Smithson’s ambition is terrific. The problem is that architects can’t change the world until they become developers. At the moment, the best of our architects are merely hired jesters designed to enliven the egos and bank balances of large property developers.