An Investigation into how the Built Environment can Increase Happiness
The world is increasingly urban and managing urban areas has become one of the most important challenges of the twenty-first century (United Nations, 2014). For urban dwellers, cities do design their lives; the city can corrode their ability to cope with everyday challenges - it can wear them down daily (Montgomery, 2013). Cities in the twentieth century have been negatively affected by a dual urban legacy, the first issue is the dominance of private automobiles and second, the privatisation of public space (Montgomery, 2013). Urban life is becoming increasingly disconnected and lonely (Putnam, 2000) and as The Happy City (2017b) asserted “feelings of belonging and connection to other people and community are essential elements of human health and happiness” (n.p.). This thesis investigated how the built environment can impact on the subjective wellbeing and happiness of those living in the city and presented how subjective wellbeing and happiness can be increased from a planning perspective. Engineers, architects, marketers, land developers and planners in particular hold significant influence in transforming the built environment and the way people experience the city, therefore it is important that this research was undertaken from a planning perspective. The primary research component of this thesis examined urban spaces and public events in Melbourne, Australia and Dunedin, New Zealand. Observations methods using video recordings and key informant interviews formed the two primary data collection methods. This research uncovered three key research findings. The first was the importance of planning for liveability. A liveable city is a city that reduces inequalities, has attractive built and natural environments, which in turn supports health and wellbeing (Badland et al., 2014). This research has found that it is possible to measure aspects of liveability (i.e. commute times or distance to the nearest green space) and that planning has a role in enhancing liveability. The second finding was that the built environment undoubtedly impacts on subjective wellbeing and happiness. This research reaffirmed that the design of the city influences how people feel and challenges planners to take this into account in decision making. The third finding was the lack of understanding of urban happiness in planning practice and calls for more research of this nature to be undertaken from a planning perspective. This thesis argued that it is not too late for planners to recognise their role and assist in creating the happy city.
Advisor: Freeman, Claire
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: planning; urban planning; subjective wellbeing; city; built environment; liveability; liveable city; urban happiness
Research Type: Thesis