Discussion Notes for Friday AM Discussion Group | (the A.M.s)


February 12, 2021


..it means acknowledging that buildings are able to solve no more than a fraction of our dissatisfactions or prevent evil from unfolding under their watch. Architecture, even at its most accomplished, will only ever constitute a small, and imperfect (expensive, prone to destruction and morally unreliable), protest against the state of things. More awkwardly still, architecture asks us to imagine that happiness might often have an unostentatious, unheroic character to it…


What is a beautiful building? To be modern is to experience this as an awkward and possibly unanswerable question, the very notion of beauty having come to seem like a concept doomed to ignite unfruitful and childish argument. How can anyone claim to know what is attractive? How can anyone adjudicate between the competing claims of different styles or defend a particular choice in the face of the contradictory tastes of others? The creation of beauty, once viewed as the central task of the architect, has quietly evaporated from serious professional discussion and retreated to a confused private imperative.  p28

Rules for Classical Columns by Denis Diderot, 1780

Discussion: Let’s answer and discuss the questions de Button posits here.

Question: What does de Botton mean by the creation of beauty “…quietly evaporate[ing] from serious professional discussion and retreated to a confused private imperative”?


Beauty must include three qualities: integrity or completeness – since things that lack something are thereby ugly; right proportion or harmony; and brightness – we call things bright in colour beautiful.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theolgica

If beauty delights the intellect, it is because it is essentially a certain excellence or perfection in the proportion of things to the intellect. Hence the three conditions Saint Thomas assigned to beauty; integrity, because the intellect is pleased in fullness of Being; proportion, because the intellect is pleased in order and unity; finally, and above all, radiance or clarity, because the intellect is pleased in light and intelligibility.

Jacques Maritain, Art & Scholasticism

Question: How do these thoughts from Aquinas and Maritain add to our discussion?

**All content unless otherwise noted from The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton . Content for this discussion compiled by Kirk Irwin