behavioural economics | June 01, 2017

VIDEO: How Does Flirting Make a Happier City? Urban Design Consultant Charles Montgomery Explains

“Every city’s doing a little bit right,” said author and urban design consultant Charles Montgomery during his recent Lavin HQ visit. “And a lot wrong, unfortunately,” he adds with a smile. He’s worked on enough cities to know. 

“It is necessary to consider human relationships in everything we build.”

— Charles Montgomery

Charles Montgomery speaks from the intersection of theory and practice when it comes to city dwelling. In his book Happy City, he wondered (and then investigated): what kind of cities are people happiest in? Where do we feel less lonely, more comfortable, and generally healthier? Speaking of recent “urban experiments” he implemented in cities like Vancouver, Montgomery explained that every city has different needs—but mobility and affordability are two things that go a long way. So do positive social encounters, which can include a casual flirt session. Nay, flirting is vital to the happy city, Montgomery says!


Extrapolation aside, what Montgomery means is that the more at ease we feel with each other—friends and strangers alike—the more at home we feel in our cities. Social trust unites us, and makes us more likely to help each other create “a culture of care and empathy.” But it’s not just up to us. City infrastructure needs to develop accessibilty in diverse, inclusive ways in order to nurture equality. We’ll only all be happy, he argues, when all of us are happy.

Charles Montgomery: Bringing a Culture of Care and Empathy to Urban Design

Montgomery has advised and lectured planners, students, and decision-makers across the USA, Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico. When he isn’t writing or consulting, he creates experiments that challenge us to see our cities—and ourselves—in entirely new ways. Montgomery’s “Home for the Games” initiative led hundreds of people to follow his example and open their homes to strangers during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Whether it’s empowering people to re-imagine a city street using hundreds of giant building blocks, or challenging them to hug complete strangers, each experiment is driven by insights in the science of human wellbeing. Montgomery’s work ultimately nudges us out of our comfort zone to find a hopeful new vision for cities of joy.

To find out more about Charles Montgomery, contact the Lavin Agency today.

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