Let the happy city grow you


Over the course of the summer I have been rereading Charles Montgomery’s book, Happy City: Transforming our Lives Through Urban Design, teasing out the city essentials for city life. Here are some big ideas that have surfaced for me in the posts related to / sparked by Happy City:

  1. The city is a shared project that allows us to thrive together, and the shared tension is necessary for our growth and happiness. Ultimately, the city is a happiness project.
  2. Our social habitats struggle when our physical city habitat is dispersed (longer commute times; less trust among people in mono functional, car-dependant neighbourhoods than in walkable neighbourhoods with diverse house in, shops and places to work). How we design – to be in close proximity to each other – matters. The cities we design design our lives. We can choose to build places that make us feel good.
  3. The professionals who design our cities are only part of the picture. Citizens also play a role, as do the business community and our community organizations. It’s not just city hall. At the end of the day, the habits of professionals are as we expect them to be because their job is to serve the public interest.
  4. Everyone, everywhere can actively work to build the city to save the world. It means we have to recognize that we are hardwired to be dissatisfied make bad decisions all the time. And happiness moves – so every time we reach what would make us happy, it moves on and we are dissatisfied. It’s a journey that requires us at every turn to be present to the changes demanded of us. This never ending journey is the force that allows us to improve our cities – and save the world.
  5. People want to be close to each other and apart at the same timethe proximity/retreat conundrum. The design of cities needs to embrace this challenge. We can effectively retrofit our cities by weaving nature into the city at every scale and designing for conviviality.
  6. A city is not happy when the only way to move around is by carHappy mobility is in multiple modes. A happy city allows for choices in how we move around, gives us destinations in reach, and provides connections.
  7. Happiness in the city is about fairness, which means designing cities that accommodate everyone’s experience of the city. But what if the city is not broken, but right on schedule? What if we are where we should be – compelled to improve…
  8. Multiple modes of transportation, rather than a focus primarily on the car, allows us to tap into the abundance of everything, everywhere. The interconnections everywhere in city life are our resilience strategy. Montgomery inspires a new story of the city that gives us much more than we expect.
  9. Change the code, change the city, in two ways. First, if we change the rules that guide the physical developmen of the city, we will change the physical shape of the city. Further, this requires thinking of the city, and our role in it, differently.
  10. Citizens can change the city by thinking about it differently. You don’t have to be an engineer or a city planner to get a better city for yourself. Rethink how you think of it, your relationship with others, and your relationship with the city itself. And when you do, the rest of the city will recalibrate itself. Change up the dance moves, and the others will have to too.

You are a city maker.

And as you explore what you can do to make your city better, as you find your way in the city, you are letting your city find you, and grow you.



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