Designing joyful cities


Tonight I had the privilege of speaking at makeCalgary, a conference that looks to design for inspiration on instigating catalytic change in cities. The theme is “provoking Calgary’s next chapter,” and to that end I’ll be sharing some design principles for joyful cities, using examples from New York (which has been experiencing its own waves of inspiring change lately). I was incredibly impressed with the level of dialogue and especially the sensitivity to emotion among the crowd. Calgary is clearly primed for joyful change.

One fascinating discussion emerged around the idea of winter. A commenter observed that very few images in the presentations showed winter, of which Calgary has a hefty one. How do we create joy when the landscape forces us indoors, or at least makes it less natural to want to be outside? A fellow speaker, Rob Adams, head of urban design for the city of Melbourne offered a nice piece of advice from the Danes: “There is no bad weather. Only bad clothing.” I love this because it underscores that joy so often lives outside of the comfort zone. In North America we overwhelmingly design for comfort. But comfort is often inimical to joy because it is so cozy we become complacent and insular, rather than openminded, exploratory, and social. Better to take the advice of a commenter from Winnipeg who noted that residents of that city often skate to work on their river once it has frozen over!

Tomorrow, I’ll be helping to lead a charrette to apply some of the diverse inspirations from different cities to a site within Calgary. Looking forward to sharing back after the conference.

If you’re curious to hear more about what I’ll be sharing, here’s a link to a podcast interview I did with two of the conference’s organizers, Matt Knapik and Kate van Fraassen. Fun!

Hey, Guess What?

The Aesthetics of Joy is now a book! Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness is now available.

Learn more

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