In meeting with John van Hage today I sense a direction for a book I am intending to write. Which in this instance the title was to be ” I can’t find the right words” which was better than “there’s nothing inside” which arguably could work also as a second book. My proposition was that all design and all things beautiful ought to give expression and create emotion which in ideal world be happiness. So that all meaningful work would be beautiful. In this instance it would prove useful to demarcate a logic to all design in that without emotive function there cannot be derived any usefulness or purpose. And then I suddenly thought of the book Fernando Andrade gave me which was titled the architecture of happiness or the book by florentine sack which was titled the open house. Was there a current theme that talked about his all design must and can only be gauged by their measure of happiness they can bring. Altogether we (John and I) both agreed that any work must stir emotion, and that when they do, they succeed. And any work must have engagement (of people) in it, as proof of its worth.

Which brings to mind another topic which Donald Judd wanted to express and discuss in his not so well publicised essay already published by the judd foundation called “it’s hard to find a good lamp”. He begs to compare design and art, and seek out to find the difference between them, and criticizes the role that middle men play to make money from furniture, which he claims is not art. We also talked about the idea of gate. Or doorway. I proposed the concept of waiting outside a temple as if in earnest to enter a body or realm of intelligence. Whether this could be proven as a necessary experience before truth or true knowledge can be obtained or contemplated fully. Breaking in or initiation into expertise or departing a skill or an intelligence requires transition from outside into inside. This transition is accommodated through dialogues, or discourse, design.

We both agreed the importance to read Judd’s arguably unfinished essay and treatise on the eroded metal furniture industry.



5 thoughts on “conversations with john van hage (on happiness)

  1. The scientific view helps us see so far and so wide,
    we almost know the universe and its essential physics. Almost.
    The I Ching, however …
    Another flowering of the human imagination and, I think, more humbling.
    Brings us face to face with a mystery the scientific view has no way of seeing.
    As human beings, how can we say we are not truly blessed?
    For we apprehend such things.
    Yet happiness remains elusive, for why is it so that we need to know? To feel? To hear? To smell? To be?
    Such is out lot, is that it? We are blessed indeed!

    Jung shows us how we are formed.
    We come to be through “our” archetypes.
    But they are not ours. We are theirs.
    Maybe our happiness is not our own either, and that is why we find it so elusive!

  2. I accept that the gravitational pull behind the pursuit of happiness comes from a mystery truly beyond human contemplation (whether logical or intuitive) and, therefore, beyond ego-gratification. True happiness is attested to by those who have learned to deal objectively with ego-gratification; to side-step it so to speak. They have done this through humility, and an acceptance of, but not an attachment to, the value of ego-gratification as our survival instinct sublimated into our social drives with all its conundrums.
    For me, an architecture of happiness must push us out of our ego-centrism, to give us some psychic relief! How it does that, maybe only the very greatest of built environments can attest to – and maybe we need to look at examples that have sustained humanity since time immemorial; at one end of the spectrum, ancient religious and ceremonial precincts cognisant of primeval geometries come to mind immediately, while at the other, we have our unselfconsciousness vernacular architecture to contemplate. They both talk of the value of humility in the struggle between ignorance and pretentiousness which is the lot of the architect!

  3. If there is anything to add to your treatise, I would say the Chinese or the oriental philosophies emphasize that seeking begets no answers whereas to look inside or seeking by reflection might beget answers. Truths (which therein lies happiness) are within and not without, it is below and not above.

  4. On has to ask if indeed architectural happiness is not merely the measure of personal gratification and that the experience is not in totality or tandem with a social objective or desire to draw collective happiness from it

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