Well Designed Cities
The researchers speculate: “Perhaps there is an understanding here, among urbanites, that cleanliness in the city is not something they can always control, or that it is allowable as long as the city is beautiful and safe in general (enough to rear and care for children, for example).” Beauty, it turns out, is relative for urbanites. A well-designed urban environment matters much more than the amount of trash on the sidewalk.
Based on their findings (and past studies), the researchers speculate that a feeling of connectedness–something that often comes with living in a safe, activity-packed city filled with quality neighborhoods–is also key to happiness. “Some [neighborhoods] are designed and built to foster or enable connections. Others are built to discourage them (e.g., a gated model) or devolve to become places that are antisocial because of crime or other negative behaviors,” say the researchers. “Increasingly, researchers and practitioners have become aware that some neighborhood designs appear better suited for social connectedness than others.”
Those gated suburban communities that lack easy access to any sort of cohesive neighborhood? People probably aren’t too happy there. And that’s not a bad thing–we should encourage people to move away from places where they have to drive everywhere. Thankfully, the style of densely-packed living that’s best for our planet is also where people are happiest.
For a great resource on the built environment check out A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption