No. 1 (2023)

Aesthetic Boredom in Everyday Architecture

Abel B. Franco
California State University, Northridge

Published 2023-02-15


  • boredom,
  • aesthetics,
  • architecture,
  • inhabitability,
  • space,
  • aesthetic boredom
  • ...More

How to Cite

Franco, A. B. (2023). Aesthetic Boredom in Everyday Architecture. Journal of Boredom Studies, (1). Retrieved from


I defend that saying in everyday parlance that an architectonic space is ‘boring’ can be an aesthetic judgement and, in such cases, we can talk about a form of aesthetic boredom about spaces. As an emotion (rather than a mood), aesthetic boredom would be the negative or opposite emotion to what might be called our aesthetic excitement about a space. The latter would be our emotional response to what I call the aesthetic quality of inhabitability: the quality of a space which we experience as being responsible for 1) creating possibilities which are significant for us (regarding what we can do and how we can do it in that space), and for 2) enhancing (qualitatively) the experience of realizing those possibilities. Unlike (simple) boredom about a space, aesthetic boredom would be boredom due primarily to the absence of inhabitability thus understood. As to the frustrated desire which, as it is commonly understood, is constitutive of boredom, I will argue that this desire is the one revealed by our constant active search for inhabitability in the spaces in which we find ourselves, or for greater inhabitability when we choose them. Our frustration is a response, not simply to not encountering possibilities, but rather, to realizing that there are none where we expect some. This would explain the considerable strength of our (negative) response to boring spaces. We experience aesthetically boring spaces as spaces that deny both significant possibilities and the enhancement of the felt quality of the experience of realizing them.


  1. Adams, R. (2009). What We Bought: The New World: Scenes from the Denver Metropolitan Area 1970–1974. Yale University Art Gallery.
  2. Augé, M. (1995). Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Verso.
  3. Böhme, G. (1993). Atmosphere as the Fundamental Concept of a New Aesthetics. Thesis Eleven, 36(1), 113–126.
  4. Böhme, G. (2017a). The Aesthetics of Atmospheres. Routledge.
  5. Böhme, G. (2017b). The Ecstasies of Things: Ontology and Aesthetics of Thingness. In Atmospheric Architectures: The Aesthetics of Felt Spaces (pp. 37–54). Bloomsbury.
  6. Borden, I. (2014). ‘Things that People Cannot Anticipate’: Skateboarding at the Southbank Centre. In I. Borden, B. Penner, and M. Fraser (Eds.), Forty Ways to Think about Architecture: Architectural History and Theory Today (pp. 100–105). John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
  7. Cohen, L., Ewing, W. A., Byrne, D., and Mellor, D. (1987). Occupied Territory. Aperture Foundation.
  8. Cova, F., and Deonna, J. A. (2014). Being Moved. Philosophical Studies, 169(3), 447–466.
  9. Deonna, J., and Scherer, K. (2010). The Case of the Disappearing Intentional Object: Constraints on a Definition of Emotion. Emotion Review, 2(1), 44–52.
  10. De Matteis, F. (2021). Affective Spaces: Architecture and the Living Body. Routledge.
  11. Doehlemann, M. (1991). Langeweile? Deutung eines verbreiteten Phänomens. Suhrkamp.
  12. Dundon, R. (2016, November 1). Beautifully Boring Pictures of Typical American Architecture. Medium.
  13. Elpidorou, A. (2017a). Boredom in Art. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40, E359.
  14. Elpidorou, A. (2017b) The Bored Mind Is a Guiding Mind: Toward a Regulatory Theory of Boredom. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 17(3), 455–484.
  15. Elpidorou, A. (2018). The Good of Boredom. Philosophical Psychology, 31(3), 323–351.
  16. Franco, A. (2019). Our Everyday Aesthetic Evaluations of Architecture. The British Journal of Aesthetics, 59(4), 393–412.
  17. Fridja N. H. (1986). The Emotions. Cambridge University Press.
  18. Gamsby, P. (2019). Boredom: Emptiness in the Modern World. In M. H. Jacobsen (Ed.), Emotions, Everyday Life and Sociology (pp. 209–224). Routledge.
  19. Gamsby, P. (2022). Henri Lefebvre, Boredom, and Everyday Life. Lexington Books/Fortress Academic.
  20. Griffero, T. (2019). Is There Such a Thing as an ‘Atmospheric Turn’? Instead of an Introduction. In T. Griffero, and M. Tedeschini (Eds.), Atmosphere and Aesthetics: A Plural Perspective (pp. 11–62). Springer.
  21. Heidegger, M. (1995). The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Indiana University Press.
  22. Hopper, E. (1925). House by the Railroad [Painting]. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, United States.
  23. Hopper, E. (1927). Automat [Painting]. Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA, United States.
  24. Hopper, E. (1930). Early Sunday Morning [Painting]. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, United States.
  25. Hopper, E. (1939). New York Movie [Painting]. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, United States.
  26. Hopper, E. (1940). Gas [Painting]. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, United States.
  27. Hopper, E. (1942). Nighthawks [Painting]. The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States.
  28. Hopper, E. (1951). Rooms by the Sea [Painting]. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, United States.
  29. Hopper, E. (1958). Sunlight in a Cafeteria [Painting]. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, United States.
  30. Hopper, E. (1960). People in the Sun [Painting]. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, United States.
  31. Jenkins, D. (2020). Loneliness, Art and the City. Contemporary Aesthetics, 8 (Urban Aesthetics).
  32. Johnson, M. (2007). The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding. University of Chicago Press.
  33. Levin, G. (2021). Edward Hopper’s Loneliness. Social Research: An International Quarterly, 88(3), 747–770.
  34. McKeough, T. (2022, March 29). The Best Room in Your Home? It Could Be the Laundry Room. The New York Times.
  35. Michaels, W. B. (2021). Dumb and Boring. In P. Preissner, Kind of Boring: Canonical Work and Other Visible Things Meant to Be Viewed as Architecture (pp. 163–167). Actar.
  36. Mihalache, A. (2020). Musings on Boredom, Midcentury Architecture, and Public Spaces. The Plan Journal, 5(1), 119–138.
  37. O’Brien, W. (2014). Boredom. Analysis, 74(2), 236–244.
  38. Oxford English Dictionary (2022a). Boredom, n. OED Online. Oxford University Press.
  39. Oxford English Dictionary (2022b). Ennui, n. OED Online. Oxford University Press.
  40. Oxford English Dictionary (2022c). Boring, adj.2. OED Online. Oxford University Press.
  41. Parreno, C. (2019). A Laboratory for Boredom. Journal of Architectural Education, 73(1), 107–109.
  42. Parreno, C. (2021). Boredom, Architecture, and Spatial Experience. Bloomsbury Visual Arts.
  43. Petty, J. (2016). The London Spikes Controversy: Homelessness, Urban Securitisation and the Question of “Hostile Architecture.” International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 5(1), 67–81.
  44. Preissner, P. (2021a). Kind of Boring: Canonical Work and Other Visible Things Meant to Be Viewed as Architecture. Actar.
  45. Preissner, P. (2021b). Kind of Boring. In Kind of Boring: Canonical Work and Other Visible Things Meant to Be Viewed as Architecture (pp. 168–173). Actar.
  46. Russell, B. (1930). The Conquest of Happiness. Horace Liveright.
  47. Saint, A. (2014). How to Write about Buildings? In I. Borden, B. Penner, and M. Fraser (Eds.), Forty Ways to Think about Architecture: Architectural History and Theory Today (pp. 33–35). John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
  48. Scherer, K. R. (1984). On the Nature and Function of Emotion: A Component Process Approach. In K. Scherer, and P. Ekman (Eds.), Approaches to Emotion (pp. 293–318). Erlbaum.
  49. Schmitz, H. (1965). System der Philosophie: Band 2. Teil 1: Der Leib. Bouvier.
  50. Schmitz, H. (1969). System der Philosophie: Band 3. Teil 2: Der Gefühlsraum. Bouvier.
  51. Shinkle, E. (2004). Boredom, Repetition, Inertia: Contemporary Photography and the Aesthetics of the Banal. Mosaic (Winnipeg), 37(4), 165–184.
  52. Sizer, L. (2000). Towards a Computational Theory of Mood. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 51(4), 743–769.
  53. Svendsen, L. (2005). A Philosophy of Boredom. Reaktion Books.
  54. Teroni, F. (2007). Emotions and Formal Object. Dialéctica, 61(3), 395–415.
  55. Toohey, P. (2011). Boredom: A Lively History. Yale University Press.
  56. Van Tilburg, W. A., and Igou, E. R. (2012). On Boredom: Lack of Challenge and Meaning as Distinct Boredom Experiences. Motivation and Emotion, 36(2), 181–194.
  57. Ward, M. (2012, April 10). Boring Urban Landscapes. SB129.