As a semantic reaction against the miserabilism derived from the economic crisis and social instability of the first half of the nineteenth century, joie de vivre surfaced in France. It denotes enjoyment and the ability to recover from calamitous events. In The Insect (1857) by Jules Michelet, joie de vivre constitutes movement and architectural creation, epitomised in the beehive-'the veritable Athens of the Insect World'. Yet the sentiment turns ambiguous in La Joie de vivre (1883) by Émile Zola, for whom it is an attitude required not only to face the contradictions of modernity but also to succeed in the capitalist manipulation of nature through architecture. To explore how the built environment manifests emotional experience, this essay follows the trajectory of joie de vivre, from its appearance as an idiomatic amalgamation to other conceptual variations, including élan vital and jouissance.