I had started writing the Happy Cities series, on a theory that most ‘happiness activities’ would have to further support how important urban public spaces are. Continuing the metaphor that a city could be like a person, I was going to deconstruct Karim Rashid’s “Design Your Self”. Apply personal self-help to city self-help.
He breaks down the chapters, to functions that I thought could be a way to deconstruct cities. He uses the following –
- Live (home, de-materialization, diet, fitness),
- Love (social life, beauty, fashion, sex, death)
- Work (education, inspiration, workspace, finances)
- Play (travel, shopping, colour, sleep & dream)
EXAMPLE of my thoughts were –
Fitness- “Exercise does not have to be difficult or time consuming” – could be a discussion of active transport
Sex- “Be open minded” – could be a discussion of cities being open and creative to new ideas
Finances – “Don’t be seduced by things you don’t need” – could be a discussion about infrastructure investments etc etc
THE THING IS, I’m now thinking happy cities don’t exist. And can’t.
In my recently personal questioning of “where in the world should I be??”, I have been thinking more about whether PLACE (physical design) makes us happy? It must contribute somewhat – I wouldn’t be an urban designer if I didn’t believe that a little.
But it doesn’t DEFINE it.
It’s a combination of people and place, that makes me happy.
A place becomes important to me if people who I love are there or I have fond attachments to it.
People define the feeling of a city. Moods defines it.
For example – On a crappy depressed day, where I have cried in parks, hated myself and doubted the Universe – the crowds, the streets all feel like too much and this PLACE feels not nice. Once I cleared the personal angst and was happy again, then all of the sudden the PLACE feels magical again, and I want to make the most of it.
It’s the same PLACE, the same city. Nothing changes except prespective.
So what does that mean for urban design, and making places for people to feel good??
I think it means, we could never please everyone. You can’t make everyone happy.
BUT still worth trying for.