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📚 Book: Happy City

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery

Published 2014, read in 2015


This kind of personal retrofit demands did you confront your own habits and relationship with the city. It means rid of finding your notion about what the good life is supposed to look like. It means pursuing a different kind of happiness. It is, in itself, a course of urban activism and that can have a dramatic effect on you and, because everything is connected, your city. (Happy Cities 318)
The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access resources: it is the right to change or cells [ourselves?] by changing the city. David Harvey (Happy Cities 315)
This is the truth that shines over to journey toward the happy city. We do not need to wait for someone else to make it. We build that when we choose how and where to live. We build it when we move a little bit closer. We build that when we choose to move a little slower. We build it by choosing to put aside or fear the city and other people. We build the happy city by pursuing it in their own lives and, in so doing, pushing the city to change with us. We build it by living it. (Happy Cities 321)
An especially common trap is the tendency to simplify multifaceted problems. The world is wildly complex, and humans have always relied on simplification, metaphor, and story to make sense of it. [...] everything was reduced into a system of binary opposites. This structure runs through just about every great myth ever told. There is the idea and its denial, good and evil, friend or enemy. Think about your own life and the way you remember it. Stories tend to get simpler with every telling because they seem to make more sense that way. It is difficult for us to conceive of in-between states, complex arrangements, or overlapping patterns, even though our lives are full of them. Cities are especially full of contradictions, especially when you consider the complexity inherent in places that mix living, working, shopping, recreation, and other functions [...] cities refuse to behave like simple problems (p91-92)
City tensions and tug-of-war -- fear vs trust, status vs cooperative, retreat vs gather --- Our challenge lives in the way we build, but also in the way we think. It is a design problem, but it is also a psychological problem. It lives in the tensions that exist within each and everyone of us – and this tug-of-war between fear and trust, between status aspirations and the corporative impulse, between the urge to retreat and the need to engage with people. As much as they embody the philosophy of living, cities also reflect our cognitive frailties, and systematic errors everyone of us tends to make when deciding what will make us happy in the long run. (Happy Cities 315)