10 December 2013 – So what do we really all want from our re-design and re-imagining of cities? Yes, sustainability is key, but why? To make us happier perhaps, argues Charles Montgomery in his new book, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design and in an article by Eric Jaffe in Atlantic Cities.

Montgomery looks at what former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia,  Enrique Peñalosa did to turn his city into a place that is now famous for its radical liveability. “He scrapped plans for highways, he built hundreds of miles of bike lanes. He made room for parks and pedestrian plazas,”

Peñalosa’s goal, explains Montgomery, was to make Bogotans happier. Montgomery’s goal with Happy City is equally ambitious: to document whether urban policy and design can really influence well-being.

“For years, urban designers and architects have claimed happiness as their goal,” Montgomery says. “And yet none of the claims have been supported by empirical evidence. Which isn’t to say they’re not right. It’s just to say that we don’t know. That we haven’t known.”

In this spirit of empirical discovery, Montgomery takes readers around the world in search of the places where urban design has (and has not) improved quality-of-life. He also leads us into the laboratories of behavioral scientists measuring which mindsets make happiness easier (or harder) to achieve. The result is a six-part “recipe” for urban happiness — challenging cities to promote joy, health, freedom, resilience, equity, and social connections.

“Serious people have thought a lot about these issues,” says Montgomery. “What I hoped to do with the book was to draw their thinking, some of their activism, and some of their research together into a coherent narrative.”

One of the big messages in the book is that a liveable city is a happy one.

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