The happy city

Esta aventura a cerca de la relación entre la forma de nuestras ciudades y nuestra propia felicidad, arranca con esta cita de Christopher Alexander: «There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need only do inner work, in order to be alive like this; that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself, he need only change himself … The fact is, a person is so far formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings

Y Mongotmery usa las palabras de Enrique Peñalosa, Alcalde de Bogotá, como punto de partida de su historia y análisis de la búsqueda urbana de felicidad: «We might not be able to fix the economy. We might not be able to make everyone as rich as Americans. But we can design the city to give people dignity, to make them feel rich. The city can make them happier (…) The main challenge is to build a city for human beings, because in the last 100 years we have been building more cities for cars than for human. (…) And what are our needs for happiness? We need to walk, just as birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality (…) The city is a means to a way of life. It can be a reflection of all our best selves. It can be whatever we want it to be. It can change, and change dramatically.»

Montgomery analiza la búsqueda de felicidad desde las ciudades griegas hasta la ciudad dispersa en el capítulo 2 «The city has always been a Happiness Project»  y nos recuerda que, de acuerdo con la psicóloga Carol Ryff, la felicidad tiene que ver con la realización del talento y del propio potencial, y con el sentimiento de que somos capaces de desarrollar la mayoría de nuestras habilidades a lo largo de nuestra vida y por lo tanto «the good city should be measured not only by its distractions and amenities, but also by how it affects this everyday drama of survival, work and meaning«. El economista John Helliwell añade «The more we get together, the happier we’ll be».

En «The (Broken) Social scene» viajamos de la mano del autor a través de la ciudad dispersa «…the most expensive, resource-intense, land-gobbling, polluting way of living ever built» y responsable de la tendencia de ser cada vez una sociedad cada vez más solitaria, gente desconectada que duerme mal, vive menos y es menos feliz.

Hay una cfuturamalara conexión entre la forma y el déficit social de la ciudad dispersa. Las buendas ciudades, concluye Montgomery, crean proyectos colectivos «…collective problems as pollution and climate change demand collective responses» y «we tend to be happier when we feel involved in the decisions that affect us» lo que significa que ejerciendo la ciudadanía tenemos más probabilidades de ser más felices. «Hipermobility alters (the) social landscape»

La explicación a cómo hemos llegado a este modelo urbano, en el capítulo 4, «How We got there «: la actual ciudad dispersa no es un accidente, ni fruto del deseo de la gente operando en el libre mercado: la ciudad dispersa fue diseñada con poderosos incentivos financieros, masivas inversiones públicas y normas estrictas que definían cuántas carreteras podían ser desarrolladas y usadas; todas ellas, herramientas al servicio de ideas a cerca de la felicidad urbana nacidas de un momento de aguda crisis urbana. Dos filosofías había detrás the school of separation («good life can be achieved only by strictly segregating functions») y the school of speed (freedon as a matter of velocity).

«In the urban history, city streets were for everyone, but cars colonized them and they wanted the right to go faster. They wanted more space. And they wanted pedestrians, cyclists, and streetcar users to get out of the way. The American Automobile Association called this new movement Motordom» , the responsible mouvement that convinced people that the problem with safety layed in controlling pedestrians, not cars, so streets became the car kingdom. Futurama, the 1939 World’s Fair in New York would show the Motordom vision and would be shared by people across USA.

“Year by year our cities grow more complex and less fit for living. The age of rebuilding is here. We must remold our old cities and build new communities better suited to our needs”  (The City – Documentary of American Institute of City Planners, 1939)


La ciudad dispersa infectó ciudad tras ciudad, dice Montgomery, » the geometries of distance caused the economic and social devastation of our cities:  «Getting It Wrong» (cap. 5 ).

«…there has been a concerted effort by oil companies, lobbyists, and free-market think tanks to convince us that (a) the crisis is not real, and (b) action to tackle it will destroy our prosperity and lead to years of hardship and misery. The result: a perfect calm of inaction. How can we change course when faced with such psychological barriers to action? The solution lies in appealing to pure self-interest. The sustainable city has got to promise more happiness than the status quo. It has got to be healthier, higher in status, more fun, and more resilient than the dispersed city. It has got to lure us closer together rather than pushing us apart. It has got to reward people for making efficient choices when they move around. It has got to be a city of hedonic satisfaction, of distilled joys that do not cost the world.»

Y en el caso de que la ciudad pueda prometer más felicidad de la que ha ofrecido el modelo de ciudad dispersa, monofuncional y dependiente del automóvil, en «How to Be Closer»? (cap 6), el urbanista se pregunta «How much space, privacy, and distance from other people do we need? How much nature do we need? Are there designs that combine the benefits of dispersal with the dividends of proximity?»

Si existen, esos diseños tienen que incluir naturaleza y espacios para la convivencia. «Nature is not merely good for us. It brings out the good in us. The “messier” and more diverse the landscape, the better = biophilia. La naturaleza tiene que formar parte de nuestra vida, de nuestra rutina diaria, tiene que estar integrada en el tejido de la ciudad. De acuerdo con Jan Gehl, el patio perfecto para la convivencia mide exactamente 10.6 pies de profundidad «The richest social environments are those in which we feel free to edge closer together or move apart as we wish.»

«Can we build—or rebuild—city spaces in ways that enable easy connnections and more trust among both familiars and strangers? The answer is a resounding yes. The spaces we occupy can not only determine how we feel. They can change the way we regard other people and how we treat one another. (…) Every urban landscape is a collection of memory- and emotion-activating symbols. Every plaza, park, or architectural facade sends messages about who we are and what the street is for.

Para entender esos espacios de  «Convivialidad» (cap 7) hay que tener en cuenta que:

  1. Los Automóviles tienen el poder de converti barrio en no-espacios
  2. La vida pública empieza cuando vamos más despacio
  3. Facilidad de aparcamiento significa la muerte de la vida en la calle:  «If all the people in your neighborhood have room for their cars inside their homes or under their apartments, you are much less likely to see them on the sidewalk.»

Y aquí es donde entra la movilidad. En «MOBILICITY I -How moving feels». (Cap 8) «what we want, what we do, and what makes us feel good are rarely the same choice» pero casi todo el mundo estará de acuerdo en que “Walking works like a drug, and it starts working even after a few steps. The same is true of cycling, although a bicycle has the added benefit of giving even a lazy rider the ability to travel three or four times faster than someone walking, while using less than a quarter of the energy.»

OperatingManual«MOBILICITIES II: Freedom .Possession is becoming progressively burdensome and wasteful and therefore obsolete. —Buckminster Fuller, 1969. 

«The future was not going to be defined by some kind of deus ex machina solution to all of our problems, but rather by step-by-step innovations and improvements applied to the tools we already had to work with. (…) There is no single answer to any problem in the city. The solution comes from a multiplicity of answers.

Dos ideas para el éxito: «One is that the city itself is a laboratory that invites and rewards experimentation. The other is that planners must concern themselves with not just the physics but also the psychology of mobility….This behavior is a product of design. People make different choices when they are truly free to chooseJust as highway building in Atlanta produced new drivers, Copenhagen’s safe bike routes produced new cyclists (…) When places slow down, public life goes up.»

Y por lo tanto, la verdadera cuestión debería ser Who Is the City For? -Cap 10-

«It would be wonderful if the shapes of our cities maximized utility for everyone. It would be wonderful if city builders were guided purely by an enlightened calculus of utility. But this is not how the world works. Urban spaces and systems do not merely reflect altruistic attempts to solve the complex problem of people living close together, and they are more than an embodiment of the creative tension between competing ideas. They are shaped by struggles between competing groups of people. They apportion the benefits of urban life. They express who has power and who does not. In so doing, they shape the mind and the soul of the city.» 

 Y como dijo el Alcalde de Bogotá «Do you save a broken city by fixing its hardware, its public space and infrastructure, or do you save it by fixing its software—the attitudes and behavior of its citizens? (…) Only a city that respects human beings can expect citizens to respect the city in return” and «One of the requirements for happiness is equality» Tal vez no podamos alcanzar la igualdad en los ingresos, pero sí la igualdad en la calidad de vida, y más que eso, en un entorno donde nadie se sienta inferior, donde la gente no se sienta excluída: si la gente es tratada como especial, se comportará como tal, pero nos encontramos una resistencia a la innovación urbana que es consecuencia en parte por creencias profundamente arraigadas sobre la relación entre forma y cultura y en lo que significa ser libre en la ciudad. Es por ello, nos cuenta Montgomery, que «By spending resources and designing cities in a way that values everyone’s experience, life can get easier and more pleasant for everyone. We can make cities that are more generous and less cruel. We can make cities that help us all get stronger, more resilient, more connected, more active, and more free. We just have to decide who our cities are for. And we have to believe that they can change. Because Everything Is Connected to Everything Else» (Cap11)

La culpa y la vergüenza y el miedo no nos han llevado a la acción, entonces ¿cómo podemos esperar resolver los problemas ecológicos urgentes de nuestro tiempo ?

Nos han querido hacer creer que afrontar el cambio climático nos llevará a décadas de privación y sacrificio, pero cuando hablamos del fenómeno urbano, es completament erróneo. «By focusing on the relationship between energy, efficiency, and the things that make life better, cities can succeed where scary data, scientists, logic, and conscience have failed. The happy city plan is an energy plan. It is a climate plan. It is a belt-tightening plan for cash-strapped cities. It is also an economic plan, a jobs plan, and a corrective for weak systems. It is a plan for resilience. (…) In fact, just about every measure I’ve connected to happy urbanism also influences a city’s environmental footprint and, just as urgent, its economic and fiscal health. If we understand and act upon this connectedness, we just may steer hundreds of cities off the course of crisis.»

Estudiando la densidad de empleo, MInicozzi puso en evidencia que un pequeño edificio en el centro urbano empleaba 14 personas, y aunque parece poco, son en realidad 182 empleos por hectárea mientras que un centro comercial como Wallmart emplea 15 personas por hectárea. Es decir «By investing in downtowns rather than dispersal, cities can boost jobs and local tax revenues while spending less on far-flung infrastructure and services

En el cap. 12 «Retrofitting Sprawl» se plantea la solución a la ciudad dispersa que pasa por el reequipamiento con mezcla de usos, pequeños comercios, servicios y espacios públicos con viviendas, que permitan a la gente «escapar de los lazos de sus cinturones de seguridad y andar si así lo desean»

But the biggest obstacle to the retrofit project has almost nothing to do with demand or landowners’ resistance to change. It is that the system that built sprawl—huge state subsidies, financial incentives, and powerful laws—is still in place. In fact, in most jurisdictions in the United States and Canada, the sprawl-repair vision is not merely unfamiliar. It is totally against the law» porque las ordenanzas urbanísticas siguen segregando funciones en parcelas separadas.


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