The book Happy City by Charles Montgomery is about how people can lead healthier, more sustainable and in all, a happier life in cities. As portrayed by the cover, the book is focussed around the idea that the well being of citizens increases when you avoid long commutes, get to know your neighbour and add a bit of green to your life.
It’s chock-full of examples of people who have made life-changing decisions which increased their happiness, and of citizens who created a better, walkable city for themselves and their neighbours. The examples show that these ideas can work, and that you can implement them yourself.
The many practical examples and uplifting approach reminded me of Charles Landry’s book about Creative Cities when it comes to what you can do to make your city a better one. As Landry is focussing on creativity and how that helps to improve the city, Montgomery is focussing on social connectivity and how that works best for your city life.
Even though the cover has skyscrapers on it, the book doesn’t really takes an interest in them. Naturally they enter the stage when the books discusses Vancouverism, but most of Montgommery’s message can be found at street level. Those supporting the ideas of New Urbanism will find a lot of ‘truth’ in the book.
Even though the book is aimed at urbanists, it makes excellent reading material for skyscraperists like yourself, as the challenge for us is to take the message of the book and incorporate it to vertical living. One of my favorite rants is about how resiscrapers often lack any sense of neighbourhood, both as a vertical community as a lack of integration within its neighbourhood.
However, recently C.F. Møller Architects and Brut Architecture and Urban Design came up with a contest winning design for a skyscraper in Antwerp that does make social interaction is the main goal. It does so mostly by incorporating amenities based on the popular concept of sharing. Apartments are clustered around shared balcony space and as such act as mini-communities. All share an an inner courtyard, communal dining area, a bike-repair facility, a roof terrace, and indoor garden on top of the building.
Visible communities in a vertical neighbourhood. source: C.F. Møller Architects
One of the main messages of the Happy City is that common spaces offer great opportunities for casually meeting your neighbours. Applying these ideas to the skyscraper could lead to an interesting new resiscraper typology of the 2010’s: the Happy Skyscraper. Welcome!
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