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Column Adriaan Mout | Built (un)happiness

07 November 2019

Cobouw adriaan mout 191118 gebouwd ongeluk

This month a book about suicides among architects by the Belgian author Charlotte Van den Broeck was released. With its beautiful title “Waagstukken” ("Ventures") she describes the struggle of architects with unrewarded creativity or with the feeling of having failed. The architects in the 13 cases of Van der Broeck see no other way out than the ultimate act. This goes beyond the architect Howard Roarke who blows up his mutilated building complex in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

Do these architects act like this because they are not appreciated and honoured, or because they think they have failed the user of their creations? In other words: is this the iconic or the empathic architect? In any case, with the matters in Waagstukken you can speak rightly of the built unhappiness. Both types of architects do not survive in Van den Broeck's stories.

So is there something like built happiness, too? Our branch association BNA (Royal Institute of Dutch Architects) thinks there is and calls it the Human Touch. Last week this was the theme of their annual architects’ day event. How do we ensure that architecture contributes to a more meaningful, healthier, more beautiful and more enjoyable life? Built Happiness as such. Has that not always been our objective? Of course it has! Yet our profession is often accused of an iconic urge set to make statements. Icons also have a purpose and icon architects will always stay there. But our sector in general is more concerned with society and empathy for users than any other party in the construction industry. In the technocratically organized construction chain, architects are the link with the society. They show courage, responsibility, involvement and emotion. In Waagstukken it goes very far and leads to built unhappiness. Yet, built happiness is just around the corner.

November 2019,