Thinking about ‘Happy Cities’

Last year at Villiers Park Education Trust as part of the ‘Geographical Imaginations‘ course I delivered a new session which focused on cities. In previous years I had spent the time to explore sustainable cities and what that meant in different areas of the world. This year I decided to start the session ‘Urban Lives’ by exploring the concept of ‘Happy Cities’ after reading an article by Dimitris Ballas, ‘What makes a ‘Happy City?‘ which thinks about quality of life in cities, and the book by Charles Montgomery, ‘Happy City: Transforming our lives through urban design‘. Both made me think about what I would consider to be a happy city.

A TED talk with Charles explores explores what happens when you take an abandoned NYC space and infuse it with social experiments. The results are surprising and inspiring.

Shortly after reading these I came across the book, by Jaime Lerner, Urban Acupuncture, which not only argues that in many cases ‘the city is not the problem, it is the solution’, but suggests that ›“good acupuncture is about understanding places better, understanding that one city is not like the other, understanding what it is that is missing in a neighbourhood before designing”. He explores cases from around the world where interventions have been made to help cities. The TED talk ‘A Song to a City’ provides a good overview of his ideas.

I put some of these on to a worksheet to ask students which they think would work best in their own home town or city.
Urban accupuncture

The rest of the session explored different urban problems, as well as ways cities have been making efforts to become more sustainable. You can view the slides from this session below.

After the session I also came across a piece of research which is continuing to explore the concept of happy cities to create a  Happy City Index, as an alternative way to measure progress and prosperity in the 21st century.

There are lots of ways you can explore ‘Happy Cities’.


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