Can the build environment make us happy or sad? Intuitively you say yes. Of course. If you live in old dilapitaded unsafe areas you would be less happy than
if you live in a new freshly build suburb. Or not? Not! Research shows that the key factor in feeling happy in a place, is trust. The more you trust your neighbour, the more happy you are, the more likely you are to
make a donation to a good cause. Be a citizen so to say.
What are the key elements that make you trust a place? Well, other people. Signs of people being active, doing their people's
thing. An old street with lots of signs, shops, doors, windows is good. A new office building with no doors, slick and clean is not good. The chance of meeting other people going along their daily business is reassuring.
Having to walk the sidewalk on your own is slightly upsetting. But there are other factors too. Green is good. Plants, trees, grass, rocks, sand, all of this makes us feel good and giving.
The way a city is planned has significant effect on our experienced
well being. The more segregated functions are, the more isolated you feel yourself. Having to travel short distances between your daily activities makes you feel more connected
and content with your surroundings. And more willing to take part. It seems that basically we prefer a social and small scale place to a mono cultural and smooth facaded quiet place.
Duh! Nothing new here, you say. But division of functions has been the rule of thumb of urban planning the last 75 years ... Bigger mono functional buildings are what we are building now. So ... Ifpeople are more willing to share in what they perceive to be a friendly environment, and we want a participative society..... Shouldn't we take these things to heart? Shouldn't we build mixed and lively neighbourhood and change the existing ones? Shouldn't we just leave older
areas that function well alone. Not renovate?
Shouldn't our priority when we gentrify areas be to keep the lively character?
Yes we should. At least if we want a happier city. The short term most lucrative city and the most controlled city have
different blueprints. Look out of the window. Which city are you living in?