During a hectic month of business travel with little time for blogging I read the recent book by Charles Montgomery, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.
Montgomery says: "If we are to escape the effects of dispersal, then dense places have got to meet our psychological needs better than sprawl."
That idea resonated during an afternoon walk in the prairie city of Brandon, Manitoba where I worked this week. Brandon is one of those mid-western cities with wide streets and sprawl suburbs. Yet even here I found an interesting (and dense) lower income multi-family townhouse project that Montgomery would appreciate.
There is a tendency to think of low income, multi-family housing as crime-ridden. Yet this attractive, well designed multi-family complex had plenty of social mojo. Kids enjoyed a playground in clear view of nearby windows, walkways and grounds were clean, and dozens of people enjoyed their small front yards, barbecues, and common garden areas.
Police told me there were few calls for service here even though it housed 300 residents in a hundred units, very high density compared to the nearby sprawl.
Nearby, as Montgomery might predict, a traditional suburb was vacant, graffitied, and sparse. In my hour-long walk there I uncovered only a few people, mostly working on cars. Few streets had sidewalks and I saw no one on their front lawns.
The New York Times says about Happy City, "It was only a matter of time before someone figured out that if there were new things to say about happiness and a new interest in the evolution of urban life, the two subjects could be linked together." Montgomery has chapters on How to be Closer, Convivialities, and Redesigning for Freedom. They fit what I saw here.