Happy City. Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.
Meeting with Charles Montgomery moderated by Marta Żakowska
Cablecar in Caracas. Photo: author unknown
Why is life easy in some cities and why is it hard in others? As emphasized by Charles Montgomery, the reply to this question lies in understanding the relationships between urban planning and a study about happiness.
“Happy City. Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design” is a new voice in discussing the quality of urban life. By reporting on a journey across various city centres – from Atlanta through Bogota to Vancouver – Charles Montgomery shows that radical, progressive decisions made by politicians, architects and residents really transform the quality of life in the cities. By presenting a fascinating reality of urban experiments, Montgomery argues that by adjusting our cities to conclusions drawn by modern neuropsychology we can meet numerous challenges related to the quality of space, urbanisation and ecology.
The author acquaints us with radical experimenters on the basis of interviews he had conducted with them – from a legendary mayor of Bogota, through a Danish architect transforming a number of metropolises into friendly spaces, to an activist who transformed motorways in Paris into beaches as well as residents of American suburbs enhancing the quality of their surroundings on their own. „Happy City” tells us a story about power and social effects of bold urban experiments brought to life in various parts of the globe.
These issues also discussed in the latest, tenth edition of Miasta magazine, titled “Urban Radicalism”, talking about the power of shortage and presenting strength of people who dared put the cat among the pigeons, questioning the existing urban order and having achieved magnificent outcomes. They were driven neither by a vision of stability, nor by tested rules and humility. The tenth edition of Miasta magazine presents, among others, dossiers of persons who revolutionised contemporary development thought, although they were taken for mad multiple times, since - as the editors argue – “being an urban radical makes you fall somewhere between being mad and brilliant.” “We are presenting people, who by deciding on breaking the status quo – frequently faulty and undermined by studies - took the risk and made it big. Their victory is evident at plenty of levels. Owing to them, changes in the functioning of space and policy development have taken place in certain cities, whereas in other cities the transformation related to setting new strategic objectives or development paths that completely departed from the previous ones. In many cases these reforms have led to investments in a new, healthier type of urban life.”
“Happy City. Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.” Wydawnictwo Wysoki Zamek, Krakow, 2015.
Miasta Magazine #10: “Urban Radicalism”, No. 2(10)/2015, www.magazynmiasta.pl