Three stories, one message: we can all use design for happiness

by Charles Montgomery on

The best thing about researching Happy City was getting a chance to see how designers, engineers and regular people are using design to improve human experience in cities. Now Jessica Leber at Fast Company has pulled three excerpts from the book that tell this story vividly.

The first looks at how the design of our homes and neighbourhoods can influence how many local friends we have, without us even knowing it. One man totally transformed his social world, just by moving to a different form of home.

The second tells the story of my very hung-over visit to what just might be the safest suburb in the world: Houten, in the Netherlands. There, planners created a city where it’s not unusual to see 6-year-old children biking to school.

And the third is the inspiring tale of how a bunch of neighbours created an easier, more social and more resilient life on N Street in Davis, California. It started when they tore down their back yard fences. These folks are proof that sometimes you don’t have to wait for governments to make your city happier. You can do it yourself, starting at home.


NStreet panorama
Messy but happy: The common back yard at N Street Cohousing, Davis(Image from