There’s speculation out there that city planners can make a happy city. As a citizen of a city about to be rebuilt it would great to think so. On the other hand I was around in the 60s and 70s when similar claims led to developments that are now a byword for social failure (think high rise housing estates and Milton Keynes in Britain)
However, recent research looking at ten international cities suggests it can certainly contribute to it. According to The Sustainable Cities Collective:
A Gallup study examined a number of questions directly related to the built environment, including the convenience of public transportation, the ease of access to shops, the presence of parks and sports facilities, the ease of access to cultural and entertainment facilities, and the presence of libraries.
All were found to correlate significantly with happiness, with convenient public transportation and easy access to cultural and leisure facilities showing the strongest correlation.
Other studies have shown the need for social connectedness and suggested that long commutes and
car‑dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work.
They have suggested this may explain the decrease in happiness in some western countries despite an increase in income.
Other exciting ideas relate to the use of green spaces. The BBC recently featured a wonderful range of suggestions as to how green spaces may contribute to our wellbeing in future – in ways you’ve never imagined.
It’s all food for thought and I find myself hungry for some more detail as to how these principles might be put into place in Christchurch.