Architecture of happiness



Course Instructor


Architecture of happiness

Alain de Bottom’s observation about feelings and mental processes could be understood from the perspective of ideological, aesthetic, and cultural influences that affect cognitive processes. People tend to engage both conciously and subconciously with architectural and artistics images that they counter. One example of these influences could be seen from the artistic works of Kiki Valdes.

The abstract painting of Kiki Valdes might be considered as a surrealistic depiction of the American lifestyle. The stylistic distortion of forms combines with the deliberate use of bold colors to capture the rhythm and movement of American popular culture. The dexterity of this art is illustrated in the ability of the single painting to resonate with the force of a range of ideologies that are anchored within the American lifestyle. By examining this painting somewhat more closely, the viewer is able to find forces of feminism, materialism, secularism and consumerism as they combine and compete within the American cultural superstructure.

Balance in this painting is created through the choice of color, the angles of representation and the facial expression on the faces of the images. The bold red colors are toned down by a mixture of blue, white and yellow. The effect that this combination creates is one that offers the different dimensions of the American life. Through the choice of the abstract and surrealism, Valdes allows his imagination a freehand into exposing the weaknesses of some of the American values. The expression on the faces of the images, for instance, ranges from that of anguish and anger.

The life forms are shown as being particularly vexed by the swirling currents of activities around their lives. The anger on the face of the woman in this painting appears to be directed at the male figure. In symbolic terms, this particular depiction might illustrate the painter’s acknowledgement or support of the course of feminism as it expresses itself through the liberated American woman. The surprise or defiance that is written on the face of the male form, on the other hand, might indicate the subliminal resistance of the male folk to cede ground to advancing forces of feminism.

Abstract Paining by Kiki Valdes

Marcus Jansen’s work Surreal marks him out as one of the most successful expressionist artist in Miami. The artist cobbles together a ranger of unrelated images onto a single frame to illustrate the disjointed aspects of the American lifestyle. In this painting there appears to be images of a modern setting like a city or a slum that is largely deserted. About three life forms can be seen pacing about leisurely in what appears to be a languid portrayal of modern life.

Assorted arrays of objects are littered on every side of the streets. In the background there seems to be smoke or snow on the visible skyscrapers. In his own admission, Jansen said that most of his paintings are anchored on social realism. He engages his imaginative potential on political realities as they play out in the American society, or by extension the western culture. In this painting it is apparent that the painting captures the rhythm of modern confusion as expressed within the American urban establishment. Balance in this painting is deliberately distorted through the morphing together of several unrelated signifiers that portray the disjointed nature of the American lifestyle.

It might be argued also that the rhythm that this painting creates is irregular and rapid; testifying to the speed of things and the potential of damage that often symbolizes the liberal life of America. It might equally be suggested that the effort of the artist in this painting is to capture an artist’s impression of the American social confusion and valueless culture.


Surreal Painting by Marcus Jansen

Tim Buwalda’s painting ‘Night’ is essentially realistic in substance. The painting is a strong signifier of the American night life. Rhythm is achieved through the dark colors that have been used in regular patterning so that the message that issues from the painting reflects some sense of unity in meaning. The regular rhythm creates an element of suspicion that enables the viewer of this painting to imagine the general aspects that might attach to the American night life. It is a painting that symbolically carries the weight of American values, morals, and dangers in a reduced version.

Most tellingly the door of the car is open at a location that seems both suspect and insecure. The settings of the painting and the colors that have been used have the effect of giving this painting a significant sense of balance. This balance reinforces the signifiers of darkness, which in the American context, might suggest crime or sexual deviancy. The ability of this painting to condense several possible aspects of the American life within the same painting is the mark of success of this painting. The sense of movement in this painting is created by use of two contrasting colors. The painting has been done in such a manner that the dark light has an overwhelming effect so that the time factor is appropriately signified. The artist successfully combines the effects of rhythm, movement, and balance to re-create a fictional American night life scene. This same painting resembles the night scene depictions in movies or other forms of artistic representations. In this sense the image is strongly realistic in the sense in which it manages to simulate a real-life situation into an artistic representation.

Tim Buwalda’s “Night” painting.


Caravaggio’s painting about the Crucifixion of Saint Peter might be considered as one of the successful depiction of baroque art in the context of Christianity. Baroque literature generally explored the strengths and merits of the Catholic Church and the Catholic culture (Langdon, 112). The depiction of crucifixion in this work of art was captured in a sentimental manner such that the illusory aspect of the art is ably captured. The light in this painting is prominent and vivid so that the image that is captured has the effect of creating the heavenly allure which the artist sought to enlist in the creation of a more realistic sense of the aspect of crucifixion.

In this painting the use of bold colors has been used successfully to capture the image of the biblical culture in a manner that emphasizes the Christian way of life in the most authentic aspect of life. The attempt by the artist to situate the image within the context of Christian culture is captured in a manner that reflects the exact qualities of Christian life that captured the way of life that was authentically Christian in both tradition and practice (Langdon, 67).

The portrayal of crucifixion in this painting is represented in such a manner that reinforces the religious superiority of the Christian life against other competing ideologies. Generally the baroque art sought to reinforce the qualities of the Catholic Church against the traditions of the church. The effort of the endeavor was to rescue the ideologies of the church and the Christian ideologies against the intrusion of other forces that contest the thinking of the Christian frame of reference.

Caravaggio: The Crucifixion of Saint Peter

Peter Rueben’s painting on the council of the Gods is a representation of what may generally pass as an average conception of the heavenly environment. The image that the artist captures in this painting is one that vibrates with the qualities of baroque literature. The portrayal of the heavenly ambience is a device of baroque painting that seeks to situate the painting within the mainstream of baroque art (Bussaglia and Mattia, 59). The technique that has been used in this painting is one that alienates the images from the natural appearances of human agents as they might appear in an alternative environment.

The artist has used a condensed form of light to represent the heavenly allure as a stylistic way to appropriately portray the quality of life above the terrestrial expectations of reality. In terms of color, the predominant red and yellow coloration of the images and the background have the effect of creating an authentic setting that captures the Christian expectation of life after death (Bussagli and Mattia, 78). The use of space has been apportioned in a stylistic sense that privileges the ideologies and concepts of metaphysics that explain the images of heaven in terms of difference from the earthly representations.

The form of this painting is both realistic and surrealistic in aspect. In the portrayal of the human forms the author strives to give the image of real images of humans as they might appear in a general human frame of reference. But the attempt to elevate the picture to the visual aspect of godliness is reflected in the stylistic device of investing within the images certain characteristics that might only be expected of Gods. In this manner, the artist manages to situate the painting within the dimension of the baroque art.





Peter Paul Reuben: Council of the Gods

The Notre Dame de la Garde basilica is easily one of the most conspicuous landmarks of Marseilles city. The basilica which sits on a convenient high pinnacle of the rocky cliffs that surround the city is an imposing piece of architectural finesse that mirrors the nineteenth century French culture. It was officially consecrated in 1964 and sits on a foundation of the remains of a sixteenth century fort that constructed by to resist a siege attempt led by emperor Charles V. The conspicuous statue of Madonna or Virgin and child that rests upon the basilica has added to the aesthetic allure of the structure. Some historians believe that the structure was in fact put up in reverence of the Virgin Mary, (Cobban 239). The design of the Notre Dame is such that it is made of two parts that consist of a lower church section basically built with bold features of Romanesque style and the upper church that was shaped with the salient features of Neo-Byzantine architecture. The basilica has weathered the storms of atmospheric corrosion and the effects of war. The green limestone that was used to curve it is usually susceptible to corrosion which has caused major renovations to be done on the work occasionally. The Notre Dame was also scarred by the effects of gun fire during the Second World War in the liberation of France which is believed to have caused significant damage to the pieces of mosaic. At different times the basilica has served different purposes one being a site for pilgrimage and the other being a prison of princes, who according to historians served their brief sentences as they enjoyed the panorama of their surroundings. Today the facility remains a significant tourist site due to its rich historical, cultural and ideological significance.

French Romanesque architecture has variously been regarded as an outgrowth of the local and foreign artistic experiences that distilled on to the country’s architectural sphere. The active influences of Roman orthodox Christianity, the demands of the monasteries, and the contact with other cultural systems found their representations in these works of architecture.

One of the singular features that marked these cultural and artistic forces was the replacement of the wooden roofs with the special stone vault (Kostof & Greg, 332). The wooden beam ceiling that was used traditionally was considered as structurally inferior. The concerns were that its structural limitations could not guarantee support to the component features that were borrowed from the invading stylistic influences.

The stone barrel vault that was replaced had the effect of making the nave of the building appear broad and massive. The gradual replacement of the wooden beams with the stone vault had the effect of giving the upcoming buildings the requisite finesse of Roman architecture, without compromising on the local cultural preferences. In a way, therefore, France managed to invent a hybrid system of architecture by improving her own traditional artistic peculiarities with selected Roman features.

The influence of pilgrimage art brought deliberate efforts to embed into French architecture forms of art that reflected on the strong Christian values that had shaped up and practiced in Rome (Kostof & Greg, 305). The demands and preferences of the French monasteries during the same epoch were meshed into the artworks so that the resulting ambience of France’s skyline gave the feel of the holistic lifestyle of French, cutting through the life zones of her political culture, social life, religiosity and aesthetics.

Clerestory windows were the most outstanding interior feature of this architecture, and had the effect of illuminating the interior of the building, so that the entire expanse of other features was well highlighted. The Romanesque period represented the forces of cultural change that were at work in Western Europe. This was also a time when the Roman Empire had made significant endeavors to spread the reach of her cultural systems. It is because of this factor, especially, that the resulting architecture has been thought of as a major step in Rome’s cultural imperialist intentions.

The Benedictine monastery church that was located at Cluny in Burgundy was arguably one of the largest and grandest Romanesque artwork. The building was an artistic summation of France’s cultural life, and the varieties of its make have been used in many scholarly works as important signifiers that give highlights on the historical processes that gave shape to the Romanesque values and ideologies. The large size of the building was an artistic show of solidarity and patriotism among the French. In a way the shape and size of the emerging architectural works were quite often used as ways that represented the artworks as bastions of protectionism against the emerging tendencies of conquest from neighboring and distant civilizations.

The massive Benedictine monastery church was among the very first building to be covered with the stone vault. The building contained five aisles with another two transepts. Three was also a chevet, a westwork, and a narthex as other fundamental features that vibrated with the ideological rhythms of Romanesque architecture (Kostof & Greg, 317). The features of this building were later to become revolutionary in aspect, as concerns French architecture. They were widely aped by other churches through out France.

The visual features of the crucifix, and other biblical allusions were used together with the depictions of other life forms like people, emperors, and vegetation to give the interior decorations a form of realism that expressed the Romanesque hybrid art.











Works Cited

Langdon, Helen. Caravaggio: a life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.

Bussagli, Marco and Mattia Reiche. Baroque & Rococo. New York: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009.