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Ch a r le s M o n t g o Me ry hatever creates or increases connections.

Connected communities are

happiness, or some part of happier, more resilient in hard times and better
happiness, we ought to do; equipped to handle economic challenges.
whatever destroys or hampers Geographers have found a direct correlation
happiness, or gives rise to its opposite, we ought between a citys ability to create face-to-face
not to do, said Aristotle. So what is a city for? encounters and entrepreneurial creativity:
I believe the answer is straightforward: the places with more potential for social interaction
highest purpose of every city is to help residents actually produce more patent applications.
achieve happiness. After all, happiness lies at If we care about happiness, we must build
the core of every decision most people make. cities that help facilitate these positive social
As Freud said, we strive to become happy and connections. This is both an art and a science.
remain so as long as possible. Architecture, urban design, public spaces and
Of course, our desire for happiness does not, transportation systems together alter the way
in itself, make it a worthy policy goal. But the we think, feel and treat other people in ways
Urban experimentalist Charles fact is that happy feelings are both good both most of us never realise.
Montgomery is the award- for individuals and good for society. People The bad news is that many cities have
winning author of Happy City: who say they are happy with their lives tend to spent the past half-century designing social
Transforming Our Lives Through have more activity in the pleasure centres of connections out of our lives with cities planned
Urban Design, in which he explores their brains and less stress hormones in their entirely around private cars, where homes,
the link between the ways we blood. They tend to get sick less often, live workplaces, shops and recreation areas are
design our cities and how we longer, sleep better, report fewer psychological segregated into distinct zones.
think, feel and act, referencing problems and are more productive at work. No nation has spent more building these
psychology, neuroscience and There should be no question that happiness kinds of places than the US, and Americans are
behavioural economics should be a worthy goal for city-builders. now paying the social cost. Those who live in
But what makes people happy in cities? Is car-dependent developments outside of urban
it the sum total of pleasure minus pain? Is it centres report feeling much less trust for their
wealth? Safety and security? Good health? Or neighbours than people who live in walkable
meaningful work? neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with
shops, services and places to work. They are
though as I explain in Happy City, one urban much less likely to even know their neighbours.
attribute trumps them all. The economist John Meanwhile, the more time that people in any

Helliwell learned this when he examined surveys given neighbourhood spend commuting, the
comparing social trust and life satisfaction in less likely they are to play team sports, hang out
Canadian cities. The geography of well-being with friends, go to community events or get
was clear: people reported being happiest in involved in social groups.

cities where they expressed the highest levels of Long commutes take a toll on home life, too.
trust for their neighbours. A Swedish study found that people who endure
Interestingly, Canadas big, rich cities more than a 45-minute commute were 40 per
Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary fell near the cent more likely to divorce.
bottom in both trust and life satisfaction. Social Nor is all well in the super-dense, vertical
trust is much more powerful even than wealth neighbourhoods that dominate Hong Kong,
CiTies sHOULD Make Us Happy by for building happiness. Its no coincidence that Manhattan, Dubai and downtown Vancouver.
fOsTering eMOTiOnaLLy inTeLLigenT citizens of the country where people trust The one residential environment where people
Design anD CreaTing CLOseLy their neighbours, strangers and even their report lower levels of trust than the exurban
COnneCTeD COMMUniTies, wiTH THe government the most Denmark consistently fringe is in the residential tower. For decades,
benefiTs sHareD by everyOne comes out on or near the top of happiness polls. people in towers have complained about feeling
There is no more crucial ingredient for both lonely and crowded at the very same time.
by Charles MontgoMery human happiness than strong, positive social Even in Vancouver, where a shining forest of

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high-status, condominium towers has won cluster. That may mean limiting the number of one psychologist has labelled pedestrian rage.
accolades for liveability, those who dwell in the apartment units sharing a particular elevator communicate with our eyes and our expressions, Urban design can help lead us back to the
success depends on the willingness of residents to make sky still express lower trust for their neighbours bank, or building more rowhouses, townhouses often without even realising it. notion of the shared city. Environments that
than people living on the ground. The tower, and courtyard apartments rather than towers. If walking and cycling feel so good, why do feel comfortable and safe may actually prime
at least in its current form, has not proved a It is also crucial to pay attention to the soft only a small minority of commuters in most our brains for trust.
nimble machine for building social relations. cities do it? The answer is simple: our cities
So we are faced with a special challenge. The he studied the way people in Denmark and design walking into or out of our lives. Auto- investing in the altruistic city. Thats because
realities of resource scarcity, population growth Canada behave in their front yards, Danish loving planners have pushed most destinations each trust-building encounter begets more.
and climate change demand we embrace denser architect Jan Gehl found that residents chat the beyond the pedestrian or cyclists reach, and
city living. How can we build more sociability, most with passers-by when yards are shallow aesthetics and geometry change our behaviour interactions prompt our brains to shower us
and thus more happiness, into the central city enough to allow for conversation, but deep even when destinations are within reach. Most with feel-good hormones such as oxytocin,
of the future? enough to allow for retreat. The perfect yard for people tend to walk farther when streets feel which prompt us to trust people more and
safe and interesting. People who live in central behave better.
interested in building happier places should stop New York or London typically walk between
mandating deep setbacks for suburban homes. a third to a half mile to go shopping. Thats a life if we felt more trust and empathy towards
laboratory in an empty lot in Manhattans Lower In New York, we conducted experiments
through walking tours of the Lower East Side parking lot surrounded by big-box outlets and live and move as though our cities really are a
we conducted a series of playful, participatory and discovered that even small infusions of our inclination to walk evaporates. Even when
experiments to shed light on the emotional city. nature, such as trees and shrubs, cheered people are equipped with shopping carts, they Its too urgent a question not to pursue. Even
In one, participants were asked to enter a people up. The shape of buildings mattered, tend not to endure so much as the three- though it is now easier than ever for individuals
specially constructed subway car, in which too: along the busy thoroughfare East Houston minute stroll between big box retailers. to retreat from neighbours and strangers, the
their personal space was reduced by gradually Street, people reported feeling much happier on Cities that care about health and sociability greatest of human satisfactions lies in working
the sidewalk of a messy old tenement block of need to do more than encourage denser, mixed- and playing cooperatively with other people.
squeeze, participants became more tense, made small shops and bars than they did outside the use development. They must promote active,
uncomfortable by the forced proximity. sleek glass facade of a supermarket. interesting, permeable street edges and stop that our buildings, public spaces and mobility
Humans evolved in small groups of hunter- This phenomenon in turn is also likely to the proliferation of big, blank walls in central
gatherers, and most of us still feel a deep need change peoples behaviour. Through extensive cities. Fortunately, New York, Melbourne and will help us undo the damage done to cities over
to control our exposure to people outside our observation in cities around the world, Gehl Copenhagen have actually taken steps to ban the past half-century. It will help us build cities
found that busy, permeable facades cause long, blank facades on some streets. that acknowledge the truth: that the social city,
social contact, but we need to feel the ability to people to walk more slowly and pause more Our cities, like society itself, are shared the sustainable city and the happy city are the
control these interactions, or we retreat. often, turning empty spaces into social places.
This was illustrated by a study of
too. But social streets almost never happen by
accident they are designed.
People have reported being happiest in cities where they
lived in double bedrooms along a corridor, with In recent years, public health experts have expressed the highest levels of trust for their neighbours
a shared lounge and bathroom. The second warned of the health dangers of the sedentary
car-dependent lifestyle. But city builders also
double rooms clustered in pods of three around need to pay attention to the feel-good factor
semi-private lounges. Students in the corridor that comes from walking or cycling to work. willingness of residents to make choices that
residences reported feeling crowded and In the Netherlands, people who cycle to work
stressed out and retreated from each other. But trust and goodwill. Surveys have shown,
students in the pod residences actually made sadness than drivers or transit users. for example, that people who live in an auto-
friends. They were more sociable, helpful and
empathic, and they carried that behaviour with treat other people. In Vancouver, commuters volunteer for social causes or vote, but also
them into other parts of their lives. reported experiencing more rudeness and express less willingness to pay taxes than people
01 In Manhattan, lack of personal space and forced
incivility while driving than with any other in more connected communities. Meanwhile,
proximity to others can impact happiness
supportive relationships simply by limiting the mode of transport, including public transport. severe crowding on downtown sidewalks has 02 Copenhagen reports high levels of trust between
number of people in any particular residential A simple reason is that we tend to be kinder been found to trigger antisocial thoughts that people, which results in a healthier population

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