A barn designed by cutting-edge Dutch architects MVRDV. The holiday home being built in Suffolk will be available for rent from October. (Photograph: MVRDV)

The philosopher Alain de Botton is to venture into holiday lettings in an attempt to cure the British public of what he believes is a widely held fear of modernist architecture.

The author of books including the Consolations of Philosophy and The Architecture of Happiness, has commissioned five houses by some of Europe’s leading modern architects, which he plans to rent out on a not-for-profit basis. He said his purpose was “to help people get over the dichotomy that modernism equals awful and antiquated equals great”.

The houses, designed so far by leading architects from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland and London, are deliberately experimental. They set out to challenge preconceptions of what constitutes a holiday home in 21st-century Britain. Bookings are now being taken for the first two houses, which will be available from late October.

“The inspiration is the Landmark Trust [which lets interesting historical properties] – for people interested in a good holiday, but also an educational experience while they are in the property,” said De Botton, who has called the initiative Living Architecture and is working with investors from the construction and property industries.

“You are more than just sleeping there – you are looking around and learning about modern architecture.”


Robert Booth