cities | October 06, 2016

Happier Cities Just Make Sense: Charles Montgomery Talks to The Guardian

As populations continue to urbanize, the debate rages as to how to best streamline our cities for productivity. But another question—one stemming from an emerging field—is now beginning to take hold: How can we be happier in cities? Urban experimentalist Charles Montgomery is the author of the aptly named Happy City, in which he tackles this intersectional question, fusing elements of urban design, happiness science, psychology, and behavioral economics. This month, he and his consultancy (also named Happy City) have been featured in The Guardian, stressing the importance of urban happiness and the benefits—both personal and financial—that it can bring.

“If we give a damn about human wellbeing in cities, we need to study the emotional effects of spaces and systems,” Montgomery tells The Guardian. “We need to use evidence to help fix the horrific mistakes we’ve made over the last century.” And with Happy City, Montgomery is doing just that. His organization gathers data from psychological, neuroscience, and public health studies, including their own, with a view to retrofitting public spaces like streets, parks, and shopping centers for improved urban morale. For instance, Montgomery and his team know that hospital patients who can see trees recover more quickly than those who only see brick walls. They even know that the ideal yard for friendliness and conversation is exactly 10.6 feet deep.

The happy city experiment | Charles Montgomery | TEDxVancouver


Montgomery’s consultancy advises local governments, developers, and other groups with a hand in urban growth, including the World Health Organization. And recently, the firm has undertaken projects in the UK, India, and Mexico—each to resounding success.


Further making Montgomery’s case is the fact that happy cities help the bottom line. “Building healthier, happier places is not more expensive. In fact, these places save society money in the long run,” he says. People with engaged, happy social lives are more productive and resilient at work. Social interaction also sparks creativity and strengthens trust, both of which have been proven to correlate with GDP growth. And Happy City has lessons for the private sector, too: When workplaces and businesses build happiness into their designs, productivity—and sales—are sure to follow.


Want to learn more about Charles Montgomery and his group Happy City? Contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau, his exclusive representative for keynote speeches.

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