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Metal Works

One of the problems with designing housing is that we all have experience of one sort of provision or another. I have yet to meet the architect who spent their youth in a yurt.

With this familiarity comes a set of preconceptions that are remarkably difficult to shrug off. Primary among these is that 'bricks and mortar' represent the summit of our acquisitive expectations. This, coupled with the raft of building-related TV makeover shows, reinforces the impression that our home is the key to happiness.

Unfortunately, these views, if we are to build our way out of the current crisis in house building - ie the lack of supply versus the demand - are going to have to suffer some revision.We are going to have to accept that, if an Englishman's home is his castle, he may have to content himself with living in the keep.

In his book The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Botton approaches this problem obliquely (in a section entitled 'Consolation for not having enough money', a subject dear to my heart). It begins with the chapter 'Happiness, an acquisition list' and goes on to describe what would imbue happiness in the author. Seven of the nine items listed are buildings or building-related, reflecting an opulent (not to say worryingly Baroque) tendency. In de Botton's case, initially, happiness stems from having space, nice things - oh, and lots of money.

He then describes the life and work of Epicurus. Epicurus is principally remembered as an advocate of the pleasurable lifestyle and as such is often regarded with envy and/or suspicion.However, he was primarily concerned with answering the question 'what will make me happy?' Happiness for Epicurus was not contained in bricks and mortar; though he admits that wanting a big house is understandable, it is not necessary for the acquisition of happiness.

De Botton then re-examines his own list and revises it. Gone are the grand houses, the accoutrements, the private jet and the pots of money. In their place are friends, thought, a communal garden and a hut.

Housing is necessary. The sooner we stop making people feel bad about housing (too small, wrong location, etc) and start concentrating on making good appropriate provision, the happier we'll be.

Does anyone know where I can buy a yurt?

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