Our Team

Charles Montgomery

Founding Principal

Charles Montgomery, Happy City’s founding principal, is an award-winning author, urbanist and leader of transformative experiments, research and interventions for wellbeing in cities. His acclaimed book, Happy City, Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, examines the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness. Collaborating with the Guggenheim Museum, Futurewise, Laboratorio para la Ciudad and other entities, Charles has created experiments and design methods that help participants alter their relationships with their cities, and with each other. Among his numerous awards is a Citation of Merit from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society for outstanding contribution towards the public’s understanding of climate change science. Charles is a member of the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Networks sub-council for Happy Cities.

Paty Rios

Housing and Research lead

Paty leads Happy City’s research projects as well as work in Latin America. She focuses on social well-being in the built environment. She has an interdisciplinary background in architecture, urban design, ethnography and participatory design. Paty has collaborated with world-renowned architecture studio Teodoro González de Leon, Gensler & Peschard, and co-founded In.Situ and the non-profit organization Identidad y Ciudad in Mexico. Paty promotes a human-centered design approach that engages a great spectrum of stakeholders to analyze and work with the nuances of social complexities.

During her PhD she developed a participatory and interdisciplinary methodology to design urban parks that promote social cohesion. Her international experience has helped her understand the different perspectives as well as cultural values that link urban design with human patterns. She is a sessional lecturer UBC and has experience teaching urban theory, and project and urban methodologies. Paty is also a postdoctoral fellow at Liu Institute where she explores the relation between the policy design process and participatory design in the planning of the city.

Mitchell Reardon

Experiments Lead & Urban Planning and Design Lead

Mitchell’s experiments, projects and research have helped clients achieve high standards in health, wellbeing and sociability in cities around the world, including Vancouver, Wuhan, Mexico City and Stockholm. Mitchell co-founded Metropolitan Collective, a group of tactical urbanists who have transformed unloved and overlooked spaces in Vancouver and beyond. He is also a board member for the Vancouver Public Space Network. Mitchell is a compelling lecturer whose paradigm-shifting keynotes on the link between urban design, sustainable planning and human health have moved audiences in Canada and in Europe.

Mitchell received his Masters of Science in Urban and Regional Planning at Stockholm University in Sweden. His work and insights have been published or broadcast on Next City, CBC News, StarMetro, CBC Radio and more.

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Houssam Elokda

Operations Manager & Masterplanning Lead

Houssam has a passion for creating urban plans, policies and designs that boost human happiness. He brings an evidence-based approach that helps governments, developers and non-profit clients maximize urban health and happiness. Houssam has led complex masterplanning and policy projects in diverse settings that range from the rural Nova Scotian Town of Bridgewater to metropoles like Dubai, Cairo and Vancouver. He also produced Happy City’s groundbreaking collaboration with neuroscientists to examine the social effects of public space design in West Palm Beach. Houssam is a gifted communicator who uses keynotes and workshops to educate people around the world on the urban design/wellbeing connection.

Houssam earned his Masters Degree in City Planning and Regeneration from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. There, his prize-winning work won recognition from the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Scottish Head of Placemaking and Housing.

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Cheri Hessami

Operations and Research

Cheri uses her background in psychology, neuroscience and public health to focus on knowledge translation, facilitation and research at Happy City. She bridges the gap between scientific research and public knowledge to drive preventative health interventions. With years of experience working with innovative and high-tech startups in Vancouver, Cheri is passionate about high impact branding and communications that create healthy lives and communities.

Cheri has a Bachelor of Arts & Science in Cognitive Science from McGill University and a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Waterloo.

Ekaterina Aristova


Ekaterina’s keen interest in urban planning and design stems from the potential to have a positive powerful effect on both human wellbeing and the health of our planet. At Happy City, Ekaterina uses her diverse skillset, which includes research, graphic and web design, GIS analysis and workshop facilitation. She graduated with Honours in the Environment and Resources Studies (BES) from the University of Waterloo. Her studies culminated with a thesis on social and environmental programming in provincial parks, later submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Her personal projects include interactive web mapping, community cycling and mapping events, as well as workshop design and facilitation for the Vancouver School Board Sustainability Conference.

Emma Clayton Jones

Junior Planner & Communications Coordinator

Emma is a collaborative, solutions-oriented planner and communicator. She holds a Masters of Science in Planning from the University of Toronto and a background in community-engaged journalism.

Emma is committed to working with diverse publics to shape the projects, plans and services that affect their daily lives. She has worked on participatory initiatives in communities across Canada, and has reported on equity issues for outlets including the CBC, CANADALAND, The Discourse, The Globe and Mail, and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE).

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Tristan Cleveland

Lead Researcher, Planning

Tristan Cleveland is an urban planner and writer who has worked in Canada, Guyana, and Venezuela. Tristan leads cutting edge research that helps municipalities understand the financial impacts of urban design decisions. He is a research assistant and PhD candidate at Dalhousie University with a focus on the health and financial impacts of urban design patterns. He also leads master planning and research projects across Canada. Tristan is a distinguished speaker and workshop facilitator with experience in various cities across the country. He has devoted his life and career to reforming planning so building communities that support the basic needs of human health becomes the new minimum standard.

Marten Sims

European Operations Lead

Marten leads Happy City’s European operations – giving presentations, facilitating workshops, creating experiments, performing site audits, and designing spaces, services and engagement processes. Recent clients include British Land and the World Health Organization.

Marten brings fifteen years of design-industry experience, and holds a Degree in Graphic Design from the UK and a Masters in Design from Canada. He is also the founder of the trans-disciplinary design studio Beyond; a former president of the Vancouver Design Nerds; and a member of Vancouver’s Mayor’s Engaged City Task Force. Marten teaches design, civic engagement and facilitation at Emily Carr University and Simon Fraser University in Canada, and the Arts University Bournemouth in the UK. In Vancouver, he is known for hosting walking tours, and for creating temporary urban interventions and permanent installations such as a giant wooden nest for social interactions that foster sociability and creativity in public environments.


Uytae Lee

Uytae Lee helps us tell stories that inspire change in urban communities. Uytae produces videos that educate the public on urban planning issues. His academic background in urban planning paired with his experience in journalism, music, and videography provides him with a unique perspective on communicating the complex issues surrounding our cities. In 2013, he founded PLANifax, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on urban planning issues in Halifax through video. He later went on to support diverse organizations to create engaging content on a wide array of urban planning issues. His past clients are a mix of governmental organizations and media outlets; they include The City of Vancouver, the Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Water, and the Discourse. He currently produces a video column for CBC Vancouver where he challenges viewers to ‘rethink’ their city. Uytae holds a Bachelor’s degree in Community Design and Sustainability from Dalhousie University.

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Jan Emmanuel de Neve

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve is a professor of economics at the University of Oxford. He is best known for his research on the economics of happiness which has led to new insights into the relationship between happiness and income, economic growth, and inequality. His research was selected among “The Management Ideas that Mattered Most in 2016” by Harvard Business Review and he was awarded the Ruut Veenhoven Award in 2015 for his contributions to the scientific study of happiness. De Neve is an associate editor of the World Happiness Report and a member of the Global Happiness Council and chairs its workplace wellbeing committee.

Jan is a global happiness expert with experience from around the world. His collaborations with Happy City ensure that we are advised and mentored by academic leaders in the science of happiness.

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Harry Olson


HAO is a multidisciplinary design studio with a focus on physical and digital experiences spanning brand, product and environment. We craft narratives that shape how the world views products and services. Led by Principal/Creative Director Harry Olson, HAO brings a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to convening community through creative work that advances social change, brings civic history to life, and builds community in the public realm.

Omar Dominguez

Advising Partner

Omar has led Happy City to become a dynamic and internationally recognized leader in urban wellbeing consulting. In his former role as Managing principal at Happy City, he co-developed ground-breaking research and interventions to improve community wellbeing. He nurtured a talented interdisciplinary team of experts in urban planning, architecture and public health. He also led collaborations among senior government officials, real estate developers, academic partners and other city builders.

With a background in sustainable finance and urban design, Omar focuses on ways to ensure that new urban developments maximize public benefits and mitigate risks to society, investors and the environment. Omar is also a member of the Vancouver City Planning Commission, where he advises City Council on matters pertaining to the future of the city.

Omar currently works with the Vancity Community Foundation as a Strategic Advisor in Community-Owned Real Estate. In this role he supports the acquisition, construction and redevelopment of community-owned affordable housing, co-working spaces and programming facilities.

Omar completed a degree in International Business from the Technological Institute of Monterrey in Mexico City and has an MA in Community Development and Social Planning from the University of British Columbia.



CAMINA Center for Pedestrian Mobility Studies A.C. is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, with an interdisciplinary team committed to improving pedestrian environments and creating strategies that encourage more people to walk safely, efficiently and comfortably. CAMINA works with both public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, civil associations and with people who interact directly with the urban environment.

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Mahmoud Al Burai

Advisor, MENA Region

Mahmoud Al Burai is the Vice President of the International Real Estate Federation, FIABCI Arabic Countries, and sits on the board of International Real estate Society (IRES). Mahmoud has been selected to be FIABCI representative at the United Nations Economic Commission for West Asia (UNESCWA) and UNECE (Geneva). He is also the Chairman of UN Global Compact, UAE, and he represents the MENA region in the UN Global Compact advisory board. In his role as UN Global Compact MENA representative, he has led many initiatives to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These include starting youth ambassador programs, and establishing Women’s Empowerment Principles in the UAE, with 60 companies signing on WEPs commitment. Mahmoud established the Middle East Sustainable Development Institute to lobby governments, businesses and communities to take action on SDGs in the Middle East. Mahmoud also leads the affordable Housing working-group at World Economic Forum.


In the News

Vibrant Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods face urban decay as businesses become COVID-19 casualties – News1130

‘Happy cities need to make spaces for people, not cars’ – The Hindu

‘There’s nothing else like it’: El Mirador building with unique design, at risk – Edmonton Journal

Cities, technology, and happiness: a look at the future – Baha’i World News Service 

Inspire Jericho’ talks launch with Charles Montgomery of Happy City – Vancouver Courier 

#20ReasonsToBike: Riding a bike to work may be the secret to happiness – The Georgia Straight

How to make cities happier, healthier and better equipped to fight climate change – CBC Windsor 

CivicCon Live: ‘Happy City’ with Charles Montgomery on Monday – Pensacola News Journal 

CivicCon: How city design affects people’s happiness, and how happy people affect a city’s success – Pensacola News Journal 

Charles Montgomery: Cities can ‘push us apart, or draw us together’ – Pensacola News Journal 

The psychological tricks designers use to make cities happier places – WIRED

Designing Cities Around Happiness – Thousand Oaks Acorn

COMMENTARY: Forget commuter rail; high-speed bus lanes better option for HRM – Chronicle Herald 

Canadian ‘Happy City’ urbanist Charles Montgomery was asked how to make Perth a happier city and his response was very amusing – ABC Radio Perth

Natura’s parkside homes designed with community in mind – Vancouver Sun 

‘Happy cities need to make spaces for people, not cars’ – The Hindu

What’s behind the Tomo name of a new cohousing project? – Georgia Straight

Making connections – Globe and Mail

Cohousing project in Vancouver – Daily Hive

Cohousing Lite enters the Vancouver housing lexicon – The Courier

Cities Are Creating Car-Free Zones to Ease Congestion And PollutionNPR 

People are nicer to each other when they move more slowly’: how to create happier cities – The Guardian 

Walking Towards a Happy City – Walk 21 Vienna

La ciudad justa, verde, eficiente y feliz son el mismo lugar – El Pais

Happy City Heroes – Power and Influence

Happiness and cities: dispatch from the Academy of Urbanism – Monocle Radio

Christchurch Convention Centre location a ‘mistake’ – The Press, Christchurch; On-line

Why sprawling, car dependent cities are making us miserable? – TV New Zealand; TV

How can we make Vancouver happier? – CBC News; TV

The psychology of ‘no’: Vancouver transit vote is case study in why it’s so hard to do what makes us happy – National Post; Print

How Cities Make Us Sick – CBC News; TV

Voices of New Economies: An Interview With Charles Montgomery – Cities for People; On-line

Can we have happy sprawl – 720 AM, ABC Perth; Radio

How to make cities that make people happy – The Globe and Mail; Print

Choosing the happy city – Rethinking Transportation: New Voices, New Ideas; Video

Designing The Happy City – 94.9 FM, Seattle News & Information; Radio

Ballet of the Sidewalk– Metropolis Magazine; Print

Urban walking is a legal high, so why are cities cruel to pedestrians?– The Globe and Mail; Print

What makes a city, happy? – The Arcade; Podcast

Building Happier, Healthier, and More Sustainable Cities – Urban Land; On-line