A globe-trotting, eye-opening exploration of how cities can—and do—make us happier people
Charles Montgomery's Happy City will revolutionize the way we think about urban life.
After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as a panacea for the environmental and resource crises of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness? Are subways, sidewalks, and tower dwelling an improvement on the car-dependence of sprawl?
The award-winning journalist Charles Montgomery finds answers to such questions at the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness, and during an exhilarating journey through some of the world's most dynamic
cities. He meets the visionary mayor who introduced a "sexy" lipstick-red bus to ease status anxiety in Bogotá; the architect who brought the lessons of medieval Tuscan hill towns to modern-day New York City; the activist who turned Paris's urban freeways into beaches; and an army of American suburbanites who have transformed their lives by hacking the design of their streets and neighborhoods.
Full of rich historical detail and new insights from psychologists and Montgomery's own urban experiments, Happy City is an essential tool for understanding and improving our own communities. The message is as surprising as it is hopeful: by retrofitting our cities for happiness, we can tackle the urgent challenges of our age. The happy city, the green city, and the low-carbon city are the same place, and we can all help build it.
Can cities make us better people? Is the suburban American Dream really a nightmare? In this lively and accessible book, journalist Montgomery (The Shark God) marshals decades of interdisciplinary research into an effective argument against what he calls the "dispersed city" the modern city/suburb designed around the automobile. The result is a succession of arguments meant to debunk individualism and show how citizens thrive on contact with others. In Montgomery's hands, urban design proves not only exciting, but integral to our future. He persuasively demonstrates that designing cities with social beings in mind can make them more pleasant places to live, and shows why suburbs are experiencing higher crime, as well as a significant happiness deficit. Furthermore, this passionate jeremiad argues that urban design often reinforces inequality, and Montgomery includes useful prescriptions for creating what he calls "the fair city," as well as addressing issues like gentrification. For Montgomery, the city is a "happiness project" that exists in part to corral our conviviality and channel it productively. Though Montgomery's argument may seem strange at first, the book will likely make you a believer. 68 b&w illus.