Written by Bob Pang @AaaM Architects
Translated by Joel Wong
Image source: The Happy City / World Design Org / Luggage Hero / Untold History Tour / Pixels / BirminghamLive / Hackney Council / Actualitesuqam / DailyHive / archdaily
A "City" comprise of land, infrastructure, water grids, sewage systems, etc. However, a well-designed city and pleasant city life are not necessarily linked together. For instance, Hong Kong regarded as a highly efficient city, but the urban happiness index has always been a let down to show. Perhaps people find life "efficient" without calling themselves happy.
Charles Montgomery based their studies on urban planning on “emotions,” as well as looking at the work done in neuroscience and psychology, applying anthropology into the field of urban design.
In recent years, scholars based their urban studies on “emotions,” as well as looking at the work done in neuroscience and psychology, applying anthropology into the field of urban design. Award-winning Canadian writer and urbanist Charles Montgomery is one of the pioneers in this area of studies. In his book “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design”, he emphasized people and their relationships with other people, and scientists showing that what makes most people happy in cites is “Social Trust”,environment with natural-light and community interactions. Montgomery’s Studio, Happy City Studio, assists the government, developers, and communities in formulating policies, evaluating public spaces, and perform urban research with the community.
“Happy City” is not such a new concept. Back in the 60s, American-Canadian journalist, author Jane Jacobs proposed the idea of “Vibrant Urban Villiage” over “Land Zoning Laws” to practice the more organic “Mixed-use Neighborhoods” method of urban design. Jacob believed that Greenwich Village is the most vibrant New York community. She opposed the reconstruction plan of Greenwich Village by Robert Moses, preventing the construction of highways in the area to retain the rich and organic footpaths of the community.
Even though Jane Jacobs did not mention the idea of “Happy City” back then, she identified the importance of community parks, which link up the infrastructures around. But a city is more attractive when it facilitates social connections and enhances vibrant relationships between people. The places we live and the community life in which we live influence our happiness in ways most of us never imagined.
Jacob believed that Greenwich Village is the most vibrant New York community.
Jane Jacobs opposed the reconstruction plan of Greenwich Village by Robert Moses, preventing the construction of highways in the area.
In modern times, countless communities all over the world strive to provide the city which they live in with happiness. During 2013’s National Play Day, the Birmingham community group “Space Makers” closed six lanes for an afternoon, and transformed them into a community playground called “Play Out” for the citizens to enjoy. Such an arrangement is providing opportunities for children to build great friendships and express themselves.Shrink all ages together and being creative, definitely an excellent opportunity for the children to have. Space Makers later requested the government to issue temporary street play license, and citizens can enjoy the same kind of happiness on the street at any time.
Birmingham community “Space Makers” closed six lanes for an afternoon, and transformed them into a community playground called “Play Out”.
Swing Out Joy
Without a doubt, vibrant colors are soothing and pleasing to the eye. Art and design studio Daily Tous Les Jours from Montreal and architecture studio 100 Architects from Shanghai often use delicate colors through their works to bring people joy. In 2011, Daily Tous Les Jours created a gigantic interactive instrument called the “Musical Swings” which added "fun and play" elements into an ordinary bus stop. The interface is pretty simple, the higher you swing, the higher the note it generates, and if you play with others, you will get some musical harmonies. Due to its popularity, “Musical Swings” has been touring in 9 cities around the world to date.
The interface of “Musical Swings” is pretty simple, the higher you swing, the higher the note it generates.
100 Architects founded in Shanghai, currently led by three partners – Javier Gonzales (Spain), Marcial Jesus(Chile), their philosophy in designing public spaces are utilizing “street architecture” and “urban intervention” embedded with the use of vivid colors. Their latest project is called Pixeland, a multifunctional public space with a combination of a smaller functional pixel. Each 5m X 5m “pixel” has its independent entity, such as lounge resting area, sloped lawns, sliders, merry-go-round, and small amphitheaters for gatherings, which are ideal for the joy and entertainment of adults and younger visitors.
100 Architects founded by Javier Gonzales (Spain) and Marcial Jesus(Chile), their philosophy in designing public spaces are utilizing “street architecture” and “urban intervention” embedded with the use of vivid colors.
Nature of Happiness
There are many urban happiness index surveys happening every year, those analysis dive in so deep and complex, making people feel that happiness is not natural. But looking at the cases mentioned above, after all, creating joy in the city is rather simple. Simply adding musical swings to the bus station, painting colors to the dull facilities, keeping a short historical journey within the city, or temporarily turning the streets into a playground will provide a good source of adorable moments to the city and citizens.