The Congress for the New Urbanism is a natural home for urban wellbeing work. CNU emerged in part as a response to the harms associated with urban sprawl. Since their formation, CNU members have promoted the creation of sustainable, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods that lead to better health and economic outcomes.
The CNU Charter, specifically, is aimed at reclaiming cities and towns from the destructive force of suburban sprawl. But as new lessons emerge on the connection between urban design and wellbeing, it is pertinent to consider the extent to which the Charter addresses these issues.
Charles Montgomery, principal of Happy Cities, and Hazel Borys, Managing Principal of PlaceMakers, LLC helped CNU members explore these issues during the last Congress for New Urbanism, which took place in Dallas, Texas.
Informed by their own unique experiences as practitioners and CNU members, participants worked in teams to translate key elements of wellbeing into design objectives. Participants then were challenged to identify quantitative and qualitative metrics that could help gauge the success of future design interventions. Based on this work, participants also conducted a happiness audit of a short transect in Dallas.
Through this happiness audit, participants considered the extent to which the urban infrastructure prevailing within this transect met their design objectives. They also identified practical interventions that could help meet these goals. Finally, building on insights developed throughout the workshop, participants reflected on the extent to which Charter of the New Urbanism currently incorporates happiness as a guiding principle.