October 23, 2006 12:00 PM

Can a building make you serene? In The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton posits that our moods can take a dive—or soar—in response to our surroundings. He explains:

1. WE’RE DRAWN TO STRUCTURES THE WAY WE FALL IN LOVE WITH PEOPLE We look for something to supply what we don’t have enough of or have been denied: In Moscow, the newly rich live in apartments that are all tiger skin and marble and chandeliers.

2. AUTHENTICITY = PLEASURE One of the great aspects of travel is realizing that everything, including road signs and light switches, is different. I get very depressed when I’m forced to stay in a hotel room that could be absolutely anywhere. I’ve often just huddled in a corner in an armchair and pretended it wasn’t happening.

3. FAKERY IS FRIGHTENING A city like Las Vegas is eerie because it doesn’t seem to have any local identity. Staying there is like spending time with someone who makes jokes constantly; it’s fun for a while but then you find yourself wanting to kill them.

4. BROWSE INTERIOR DECORATING MAGAZINES WITH CARE Photos of someone in a beautiful home are like invitations to a happiness from which you might be barred. You don’t remember at that moment that the person is going to die like you are.

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