15 June 2014

Alain de Botton: a modern “think positive”. His Londinese “School of Life” might become a global brand

Alain de Botton: a pop-philosopher

He is known for his best-sellers:
“The Architecture of Happiness”
“Art as Therapy”
“How Proust can Change Your Life”
“Essays in Love”
“How to Think More About Sex” 

Above: the covers of Alain de Botton’s books “The Architecture of Happiness” and “Art as Therapy” (with John Armstrong), and their italian editions, for Guanda Editore publishing house

     He will now open his "Schools of Life"

Many attend the School of Life opened near Russel Square in London by Alain de Botton, the English philosopher of Swiss origins. People come here to search for and find happiness and meaning in their lives. In this school Alain and his team of experts intend to organize seminars and workshops to raise interest and active participation. People can discuss well-know topics, improve their personal growth and identity, eventually find the key to happiness. These topics concern sex, love, art, even architecture as a form of art: subjects that everybody experiences daily, but usually in a superficial, rushed and thoughtless way.

The idea of “Art as Therapy” belongs to a philosophical approach to the “think positive” attitude. It is the result of a series of sperimental sessions of literature, poetry and visual arts held in Belsize Park in London, which were attended by many people. An exhibition about the event will take place at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in April 2014, in collaboration with the art historian John Armstrong. The message conveyed is that everyone can make use of art, and not only by drawing or painting, like real artists or simple amateurs do. 


The covers of two books written by pop-philosopher Alain de Botton: “Essays in Love” (and its italian edition),  and “”How to Think More About Sex”. Both for Guanda Editore publishing house

The use of art must be interpreted as something that helps building an inner path, through the intrinsic beauty of a painting, a sculpture, a piece of architecture.
This is what Alain de Botton teaches us in his book “The architecture of happiness”, thinking about an historic urban environment, a jugendstil-style living room, an experienced rationalist of a house by Le Corbusier. We must investigate the relationship between this kind of beauty and its own inclination to beauty, identify which parts of that particular shape are alive in us, since we interpret them as the author did. This same approach is used by the philosopher in the analysis of architecture as a source of esthetical ecstasy, a pleasure that makes it possible to identify the emotional involvement raised in us by a building, an environment, a glimpse of city.      

Glimpses of Alain de Botton’s  "School of life", near Belsize Park in London

The individual sessions of psychotherapy, art therapy and book therapy become, in the city center of London, collective discussions and analyses of emotional health linked to the topics covered by experts. The initiative has seen 4 years of success, and now that the initial goals have been fulfilled, the idea of a global brand has born. Alain de Botton is thinking of exporting this art-theraphy experience in Korea, Australia, the USA, Spain.

Some experiments made at Alain de Botton’s “School of life” 

Some sessions teach how to better ourselves through the art of conversation ("How to have a better conversation"), others to have fun and grow while walking (“Eureka tour” where you can talk about everything you see, from bins to cigarette packets, plastic chairs and shop windows): this pop-training and art-analysis guru teaches us how to get involved and be curious and eclectic, in order for us to challenge ourselves and stimulate our interest through the confrontation with people so much different from us. In other words, exposing ourselves is the only way to bring something new to our routine horizon.

Alain de Botton says: "Our society is great at dressing people of all ages in every situation, but far less great in dressing emotions. In this field, we are still primitive”. 

Enrico Mercatali

Lesa, 27th July 2013

(translation from italian byPenelope Mirotti)

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