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Happy City by Charles Montgomery

Charles Montgomery’s Happy City will revolutionize the way we think about urban life.

Here’s the conundrum: After decades of unchecked spawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as the panacea for the environmental and resource crisis of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness? Are subways, sidewalks, and tower dwelling an improvement on car-dependence?

And so in his new book Happy City, the award-winning journalist aims to get to the bottom of this and understand the perfect balance between urban design and happiness. And what exactly is happiness? What are its needs?
“We need to walk, just like birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality.”

A city could be friendly to people or friendly to cars, but it can’t be both.

“A city is a means to a way of life. It can be a reflection of all our best selves. It can be whatever we want it to be.”

Is urban design really powerful enough to make or break happiness? Happy City explores ideas and attempts to give us the tools to make change. The book is for anyone who’s wondered if it was possible to build a better city, one that would make us happier and enable us a better life. As Charles Montgomery suggests, we might not be able to fix the economy, but we can design a city to give people dignity.

Happy City is a delightful read, engrained with historical highlights, insights from professionals. Charles Montgomery attempts his own urban examples and his message is hopeful. By retrofitting our cities for happiness, we can tackle the urgent challenges of our age. 

Here’s the basic recipe for urban happiness:

  1.      A city should strive to maximize joy and minimize hardship
  2.     It should lead us toward health rather than sickness
  3.     It should offer us real freedom to live, move and build our lives as we wish
  4.      It should build resilience against economic or environmental shocks
  5.     It should be fair in the way it apportions space, services, mobility, joys, hardships, and costs
  6.   .      Most of all, it should enable us to strengthen the bonds between friends, family, and strangers that give life meaning. 
4 /5 Sukasa Stars