Thursday, May 21, 2015

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, by Charles Montgomery

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Happy City convincingly shows how we can make our cities better for our health, well-being and happiness.

Charles Montgomery is a Canadian writer and urbanist. His 2013 book, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, examines the poor design of our cities and how they fail to take into account our health, happiness and well being. In many ways, our modern urban environments, built around private cars, are making us sick and isolated. They discourage walking, add to our stress levels and make us avoid contact with each other.

The book’s title, Happy City, may make it sound like a rather fey, whimsical look at city life. The most impressive thing about Montgomery’s writing, however, is its rigour, clear headed organisation and depth of research. He thoroughly deconstructs the way cities are built and convincingly shows how they can be redesigned in a way that serves people, rather than just  business interests. Montgomery also uses a lot of the latest scientific research in behavioural economics to show how the simple choices we make can lead to happier outcomes. We may think we’re happiest driving speedily around from one place to another, but slow walks through pleasant urban landscapes (we like to walk, research shows, when the environment is pleasant) may make us even happier. And definitely healthier.

This is an intelligent and deeply considered book that will convince you that the happy city is possible, if only we will change our thinking about it.

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, by Charles Montgomery. Published by Penguin. ISBN: 9780141047546  RRP: $22.99

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